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The mistakes people make...

The mistakes people make when explaining their past experiences

When you first arrive in the UK you may be tired, frightened and lonely. Probably your main concern is to be allowed in. You may be too scared to tell the Home Office anything very much about your life. Or you may be tempted to say anything to get what you want most - a safe place to live. Please don't make the same mistakes as others have done. If you do, you risk losing your case and getting sent back to where you came from.

Please do

  • Tell the whole truth

If the Home Office discovers that you have told a lie - even just one lie, they are much less likely to believe what else you tell them even if it is true. They will think that you are untrustworthy and capable of telling other lies.

Felipe's story:
When asked how many times he'd been 'detained' Felipe shrugged and said 'once'. He was thinking about the last time when he was detained for two months, and which led him to decide he had to leave. Later, when his adviser was taking a full statement it turned out that he'd been taken into police custody many times throughout his life, often for only an hour or two. Felipe was so used to it, he no longer thought of it as 'detention' - it was just a part of life.
Adding more detail later allowed the Home Office to think that Felipe was exaggerating to improve his chances of success. It made his case look much less believable.

  • Give enough detail

It's very important to give the Home Office enough information the first time you meet them. If you change your statement or add things later they may think you are lying to increase your chances of winning your case. Do tell them things you think are relevant even if you are not asked about them directly. Ask the immigration official to make a note if you think it is important.

  • Let the immigration official know if you are feeling unwell

Interviews with immigration officials can be long and tiring. You may find it difficult to think clearly and express yourself if you are sick or have not had enough sleep. If you don't tell the immigration official you are feeling unwell and you make mistakes at interview, you may not be believed later. It's important you answer all questions correctly and in detail.

  • Mention things that have happened, even if they are embarrassing, intimate or painful

It's very hard to tell someone you've never met before and don't know whether you trust that, for example, you have been raped or tortured. But it is very important you do otherwise you could lose your case. If you are female and would prefer to speak to a woman, or male and would prefer to speak to a man, explain this to your solicitor/adviser/the immigration official. When you are interviewed you have a right to ask for a male or female interpreter.

  • Be aware that some words in the UK may have a different meaning

So, for example, people coming from outside the UK sometimes refer to non blood relations as 'brothers', 'sisters' or 'children' without realising that these terms mean something more specific in the UK. If you tell the Home Office that a particular person is your 'brother' when this person is not a blood relation, they may think you are a liar and so capable of lying about other things as well.

  • Challenge mistakes

If the Home Office records your personal details wrongly or misspells a name or place name it's best to point it out as soon as you can. If you don't it could cause problems, for example if it doesn't match evidence you use to support your case. If you don't feel comfortable telling the immigration official yourself, ask your solicitor or adviser to. If you cannot read and/or write, let the immigration official know.

Please dont

  • Don't miss something out deliberately

This is also lying and if you're found out you will have less chance of getting asylum.

  • Don't miss something out because you think it isn't relevant

Every detail, however small or unimportant it seems to you, may count. It's better that the Home Office and your solicitor/adviser decide what is or isn't relevant. If you leave something out it may make it harder for your solicitor/adviser to help you successfully. But equally don't feel any pressure to make things up - if you can't remember something, for example, a name, date or place, you can't.

  • Don't just say what you think the Home Office wants to hear

If you try guessing what the immigration officials want to hear rather than telling the truth you will create serious problems for yourself. The officials will think you have something to hide.

November 2011

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