For asylum seekers, their interview with the Home Office is no laughing matter.
One, Zabrain, said he felt the interviewer was so inept, he was sure she must be an intern. “Someone who is incompetent is the decision-maker of your life,” he told the Guardian. “Is this the rule of law?”
But some of the questions asylum seekers are asked, and the Home Office’s interpretation of their answers, do seem farcical. Here are 10 examples from interview transcripts and Home Office refusal letters.
• A Christian convert seeking asylum because his life was in danger in his home country was asked to name two miracles performed by Jesus. After doing so, he was marked down for not being able to pinpoint the reference for where those stories appeared in the Bible.
• The same man was asked who Jesus’s earthly parents were. He replied: “Mary, but he did not have an earthly father.” The Home Office said he was wrong and the correct answer was “Mary and Joseph”. The man’s vicar, who made submissions on his behalf, argued that his response was valid as the virgin birth is “a key Christian tenet”.
• A man claiming asylum on the grounds he had converted from Islam to humanism and risked being killed if he returned to Pakistan was refused partly because he could not identify “any famous Greek philosophers who were humanistic”.
• A man was refused asylum despite medical testimony from an expert that scarring on his body was “either consistent or highly consistent” with torture. The Home Office refusal letter suggested some of the scars might have been caused during karate training.
• A woman had a serious psychotic episode during her interview and began hallucinating. Instead of stopping the interview and getting the woman medical help, the interviewer continued. Afterwards, the case went to the supreme court, where the judge said:
Reading that interview, it is apparent that the claimant was very unwell at the time … She appeared to be talking to people who were not there and the interview nonetheless continued including beyond a time when she asked whether or not she had wet herself.
• A letter written in support of an asylum seeker by a lawyer from his home country was dismissed partly because it was “considered that the standard of English used eg abbreviations (don’t), in the letter is inconsistent with which an attorney-at-law would use”.
• Asylum seekers have to be very careful as they tell their stories. Any discrepancy can be used as proof that they are lying or “lack credibility”, such as this inconsistency noted in a Home Office refusal letter:
It is noted that you have been inconsistent … as you initially state that you took sheep and goats to graze and then you stated that you took the sheep. This is a minor inconsistency however it has been noted.