Duncan Lewis Solicitors represents three Claimants who issued urgent proceedings challenging the Home Office’s policy of conducting abridged asylum screening interviews.
We sought interim relief in the form of an order requiring the Home Office to instruct officials completing screening interviews to ask all questions in full and to treat transit through Libya as an indicator of potential human trafficking/modern slavery.
In advance of the interim hearing the Home Office conceded that they had since 30 March been conducting screening interviews according to an unpublished policy, pursuant to which they were directed not to ask (inter alia) Questions 3.1 and 3.3 of the Initial Contact and Registration Screening Questionnaire (“the Journey Questions”) as mandated by the published policy, Guidance for Home Office staff, Asylum Screening and Routing (Version 5, 2 April 2020).
The Journey questions are of particular importance for identifying those now in the UK who may have been subjected to human trafficking or modern slavery on their way to the UK. Transit through certain countries constitutes an indicator of trafficking which requires UKVI officials conducting asylum screening to consider whether it is appropriate to make a referral to the Single Competent Authority (for the identification of victims of modern slavery).
On 13 November, Fordham J ordered the Secretary of State by 16 November 2020 must ensure that the Asylum Screening Interview in all cases involve asking the Journey Questions. It was further ordered that the Secretary of State were to satisfy herself that those conducting asylum screening interviews are aware that (a) the test for an NRM referral to the Single Competent Authority is “any suspicion” that a person has been trafficked, as per paras 31(1) and 33(3) of R (TDT (Vietnam)) v Secretary of State for the Home Department  EWCA Civ 1395  1 WLR 4922 and (b) there is evidence of a particular risk to migrants of being forced into modern slavery whilst in Libya.
A further interim order was agreed on 16 December in DA & Others, the challenge which relates to anyone who underwent an asylum screening interview between 30 March and 16 November 2020.
On 16 December 2020, the Secretary of State accepted a further obligation: before making a decision or reviewing a decision on whether to detain or remove anyone screened between 30 March and 16 November 2020, she shall use all reasonable endeavours to ask them the Journey Questions in accordance with her Published Policy.
The case continues and a further hearing will be listed, possibly on 5 February 2021.
Maria Thomas, Molly Nicholson, Ines Graca and Nina Kamp from the Duncan Lewis Solicitors public law team, with Counsel Chris Buttler and Zoe McCallum from Matrix Chambers.