Latest Home Office Policy on Medical Evidence in Asylum Claims
26 August 2021
The Home Office has announced its latest policy in August 2021 on Medical Evidence in Asylum Claims (Version 1.0). It has combined the ‘policy on medico-legal reports’ from ‘Helen Bamber Foundation’ and ‘Freedom from Torture’ and ‘policy on medical evidence’ from other organisations. It advises Home Office workers how to deal with medical evidence. It also encompasses requests of legal representatives for extra time to gain medical evidence.
This policy accepts the diverse types, ranges, and sources of medical evidence, e.g., appointment slips to MLRs, printouts of medical records and appointment slips. Likewise, it also recognizes the expertise of clinicians from diverse clinical disciplines, e.g., doctors, consultants, Clinicians, healthcare professionals as regulated (medical) professionals. The immigrants in detention now have equivalent rights to get medical evidence to back their protection claims. It can be used against rushed and procedurally unwarranted decision-making and reconsideration of detention decision.
However, like the earlier practice, the legal representatives must submit exhaustive data if they ask for a postponement on asylum decision for the compliance of a medico-legal report. Similarly, lawyers must talk to the Home Office in particular instances to extend the unworkable five to ten working days’ timespan for giving medical evidence about present healthcare requirements. In case of commissioned evidence, 28 days for a commissioned letter and five months for a medico-legal report are available because GPs and consultants when busy, may take a longer period to deliver significant and comprehensive letter in an immigration case.
Moreover, this policy seems reluctant to wait for substantial asylum interviews to give extra time for getting medical evidence. It is problematic for the asylum-seekers as well as lawyers as it refutes individuals the prospects to gain proof which can impact an interview and its results due to lack of knowledge of clinical facts. The Home Office caseworker may not have an opportunity to give significant weight to the report of torture during the exercise of assessing credibility in deciding refugee status. The Home Office policy is arguably insensible when it requires that the asylum interview must not be postponed due to delay in medical report, unless sufficient medical evidence of asylum-seekers’ medical condition or inability to attend interview is provided.
Furthermore, any call of legal representative or clinician to defer the interview must clearly state and provide evidence why the claimant is unable to attend the interview. This evidence should also mention when the claimant would be able to attend an interview. In addition to that, lawyers must explain the relevance of the medical evidence to the appropriateness of person for interview or the manner the interview needs to be managed. Lawyers may refer the relevant parts of policy to authenticate their submissions.