Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law

Home Office publishes guidance on streamlined asylum processing for children


Older content is locked

A great deal of time and effort goes into producing the information on Free Movement, become a member of Free Movement to get unlimited access to all articles, and much, much more


By becoming a member of Free Movement, you not only support the hard-work that goes into maintaining the website, but get access to premium features;

  • Single login for personal use
  • FREE downloads of Free Movement ebooks
  • Access to all Free Movement blog content
  • Access to all our online training materials
  • Access to our busy forums
  • Downloadable CPD certificates

The Home office has published new guidance introducing a streamlined process to deal with child asylum applications. The policy explained in the guidance apparently intends to help the Home Office fulfil the commitment made by Rishi Sunak to clear the asylum backlog by the end of 2023.

The policy applies to legacy applications that have been lodged before 28 June 2022. At present, it also only covers applicants from the top five high-grant countries for children’s claims including Afghanistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Syria and Vietnam. The guidance states that this new process might be rolled out to other nationalities in the future, depending on its effectiveness.

Both unaccompanied and accompanied children fall within the remit of the new policy and it also applies to children who have turned 18 whilst waiting for an asylum decision.

Preliminary Information Meetings

The policy introduces a new step in the asylum process, the preliminary information meeting. This meeting can take place at any point after the child had their welfare interview, regardless of whether their statement of evidence form has been submitted.

However, the policy does suggest that this meeting should not take place until 2 weeks after unaccompanied applicants have been taken into local authority care and, for accompanied applicants, 2 weeks after their asylum claim is registered (although the latter will apply to all cases under this policy as it only covers claims which were registered before 28 June 2022). 

Essentially, the meeting between the child and a Home Office decision maker where the responsible adult (i.e. a social worker or guardian for unaccompanied children and a family member for accompanied children) will also need to be present. Legal representatives can be present but the policy emphasises that the meeting will not be delayed to ensure their presence.

A preliminary information meeting is an opportunity for the decision makers to ask questions covering the child’s nationality, the basis of their claim, their family background (and to establish whether family tracing will be appropriate) and to ask the child questions about the evidence that they submitted as part of their claim. The only obvious distinction between this meeting and a substantive interview is that the decision-maker should not raise any credibility issues at the meeting. The meeting will not be audio recorded, though applicants will be given a copy of the written transcript afterwards.

Once the meeting is completed, the decision maker will consider whether asylum can be granted or whether further information is needed (for instance, if any credibility issues need to be clarified). The policy makes it clear that no negative decisions can be made following a preliminary information meeting and that an applicant must be given the opportunity to clarify any issues at a substantive interview. 

If a positive asylum decision cannot be made after the meeting, the applicant will be asked to attend a substantive interview. When this is required, decision-makers should try and use shorter and more targeted interviews, addressing the specific areas of concern. Nevertheless, the policy makes it clear that it is open to decision-makers to use longer substantive interviews if this is needed to decide the claim.

Will the new policy help clear the backlog?

This new policy has been introduced by the Home Office in an attempt to reduce the asylum backlog and deal with legacy cases which pre-date the changes that came into force with the Nationality and Borders Act last year. You can read more about the streamline process for adult applicants here.

It is unclear how this will help in practice. Children applicants are already required to attend a welfare interview, where they are asked all the basic questions including their nationality, their family’s whereabouts and why they are seeking asylum in the UK. After attending these interviews, children are required to submit a statement of evidence form which is 42 pages long and asks several very detailed questions regarding the child’s background, their asylum case and journey to the UK. At this stage, children will normally also submit detailed witness statements to the Home Office. The form and statement should normally be submitted within 60 days from the date of the welfare interview. Under this new policy, both of these steps will still be required.

From experience, what causes the delay in these cases is the Home Office arranging substantive interviews. At present, many of our clients, even those who are unaccompanied, still wait several months to have their substantive interviews arranged. Whilst the new policy emphasises that preliminary information meetings are not substantive interviews, the logistics behind arranging these as well as the procedures and the issues that decision-makers need to cover sound very similar to those of a substantive interview.

Whilst the attempt to clear the backlog of outstanding asylum applications is welcome, it is hoped that the introduction of these meetings will not just represent another administrative hurdle causing further delays in decision-making. A valid alternative could have been for the Home Office to consider making decisions based on welfare interviews, statement of evidence forms and witness statements in these cases, considering the amount of information that these already cover and the high rate of asylum grants in these cases.  

Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

Relevant articles chosen for you
Picture of Francesca Sella

Francesca Sella

Francesca is an immigration and asylum solicitor at the Scottish Refugee and Migrant Centre at JustRight Scotland, Scotland's legal centre for justice and human rights.