July 1, 2020

Substantive asylum intreviews -video links

The Home Office paused face to face substantive asylum interviews on the 18th March.

On the 15th June the Home Office confirmed that substantive interviews will resume from the end of June 2020 using existing Video Conferencing facilities in Home Office (UKVI) buildings and VFS (the company that runs some of the Video Conferencing facilities); some of the interviewing officers will be working from home but they can make use of Home Office technology. The resumption of substantive interviews will be rolled out in three phases and eventually the Home Office intends to return to pre Covid-19 practice.

Phase 1 – Those asked to attend an asylum interview will be limited to those within close proximity to a UKVI or VFS location to help reduce need for public transport where possible. Once applicants attend a UKVI or VFS centre, UKVI or VFS staff will accompany them straight to an interview room/booth as soon as possible to avoid waiting in public areas. Interviews will then be completed remotely over video with the caseworker and interpreter in a separate location to help with social distancing. Consideration will be given under the existing process on the suitability of those interviewed using video conferencing.

Phase 2 – Face to face interviews will resume; plans are already being made to amend the physical space to put in place screens and the room layout will be changed so that social distancing (under the current 2 metre rule) can be maintained. Not all of the rooms in use pre Covid-19 will be suitable if there is not room for social distancing. It will be optional for caseworkers, and claimants, if they wish to wear personal safety equipment in the form of a mask to cover their face during interviews or wear gloves. There will be additional breaks factored in, based on the physical interviewing environment.

Phase 3 – Resumption of interviews for unaccompanied children and for families who need to use UKVI provided childcare.

In all cases there may need to be limits set on the number of people allowed to attend a substantive interviews. The Home Office has assured us that it will work with legal representatives.

The usual notice period will be given when asking an applicant to attend an interview i.e. five days.

Plans are likely to vary across UKVI regions because of different building layouts and therefore what needs to be put in place to enable substantive interviews to resume.