New report examines the experiences of asylum seeking women at the First-Tier Tribunal
In November 2017 the charity organization Asylum Aid published a report titled Through Her Eyes: enabling women’s Best evidence in UK asylum appeals, which looks at the experiences of asylum seeking women at the First-Tier Tribunal in the UK. While women account for approximately a third of all asylum seekers in the UK, their gender specific experiences of persecution and human right abuses are often viewed and judged through the lens of male experiences. Many women asylum seekers therefore encounter a lack of thorough understanding from authorities and judges for their specifics experiences as women refugees. According to the report this may result in women’s asylum claims not being assessed properly or being rejected.
The report is based on a number of interviews with legal representatives, First-tier Tribunal judges and asylum seeking women who had appealed their negative asylum decisions. Asylum Aid has also accessed individual woman’s case files, analysing their appeal hearings and decisions. The organisation also examined the use of the Guidance Note on Child, Vulnerable Adult and Sensitive Witnesses, which is supposed to function as a tool for judges in ensuring that vulnerable individuals receive a fair hearing. Applying the Guidance Note to a hearing can affect its conduct, for example the judge may control the cross-examination to avoid re-traumatising the asylum seeker.
Having supporters with you, standing by you, is the best thing. Because you know that no matter what happen I’ve got people here with me. So…that makes you feel a bit confident and more… relaxed. (Asylum seeker, pp.35)
The findings of the report stresses the significance of practical, procedural and emotional support prior to women’s hearings, which plays an important role in enabling women asylum seekers to feel prepared for the hearing and its conduct. It also found that the presence of a legal representative, who understands the nature of women’s gender specific experiences and claims, had a positive impact on the women’s experiences of the process and often also on the outcome of their appeals. The report further found that the awareness of the Guidance Note was generally limited. It is therefore important for the success of the women’s appeals that legal representatives raise the issue of vulnerability and requeste the Guidance Note to be considered by the judge.
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