Through her Eyes: Enabling women’s best evidence in UK asylum appeals
When women flee human rights abuses and seek protection in another country, they are dependent on an asylum process that may not take account of their experiences as women. This research, conducted by NatCen Social Research and Asylum Aid, seeks to address the evidence gap in terms of understanding the factors underpinning the overturn of women's asylum refusals on appeal. The study involved interviews with women and a range of stakeholders, including support organisations, legal representatives and First-Tier Tribunal judges. In addition, a range of case files were analysed.
Key factors identified in successful women's asylum appeals were:
- Sufficient information and support for women: some women did not know what to expect at the tribunal and were not prepared to give evidence.
- Well-prepared legal representatives: there were examples of poor legal practice where women's cases were undermined because legal representatives were ill-prepared, did not provide good quality legal advice and did not gather medical and country reports.
- Open-minded judges: some legal representative and women felt that jduges did not approach cases with an open mind nor consider the evidence in the round.
- Access to expert evidence: expert evidence was not always accessible due to accessibility and funding issues.
- Well-trained Home Office Presenting Officers (HOPOs): one view among legal representative and women was that HOPOs sometimes used aggressive cross-examination and demonstrated a lack of empathy.
- Skilled interpreters: it was felt that interpreters sometimes did not interpret in full and excluded or downplayed gender issues.
- Childcare provision: there was a lack of childcare provision, which undermined the opportunity for disclosure of abuse and violence.