Freedom From Torture
Beyond Belief: How the Home Office fails survivors of torture at the asylum interview

The Home Office’s Asylum Policy Instruction on Asylum Interviews provides guidance to Home Office caseworkers on how to conduct asylum interviews and obtain information to establish whether or not protection should be granted. Despite this guidance, independent inspection bodies and other organisations working directly with asylum claimants have expressed significant concerns over many years about the quality of asylum interviews. Freedom from Torture, along with seven other organisations, drew attention to this issue in 2019 in a joint report, Lessons not Learned: the failures of asylum decision making in the UK, which documented the persistent failure of the Home Office to address poor asylum decisionmaking.
Recent figures show that the asylum grant rate at initial decision has risen sharply. We hope that this represents a change in Home Office efforts to make the right decision first time, following years of criticism and the stark wakeup call of the Windrush scandal. However, the persistently high overturn rate at appeal of initial asylum refusals – more than two in five in the year ending March 2020 – shows that there is still much more work to do.
This research, grounded in the perspectives of survivors of torture themselves, looks in depth at caseworker practice in the asylum interview and explores the implications of poor practice for survivors and for the quality of asylum decisions. It comprises a review of 30 case files of survivors of torture interviewed by the Home Office in 2017 or 2018 and a series of focus groups and interviews involving 25 torture survivors who attended an asylum interview between 2017 and 2019.