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Profile of the week

Rajiv Bera

Position

I joined Wilsons as a caseworker in January 2013. Prior to this I worked at Wesley Gryk Solicitors as a paralegal after having completed my undergraduate degree in International Relations at the LSE. I am also a trustee at STAR National and I have volunteered for UKLGIG.

Your Week

Most of the week has been spent assisting one of my clients who was placed in the Detained Fast Track Process (DFT). The DFT is meant to be a scheme where ‘straightforward’ asylum claims are processed quickly whilst the asylum seeker is detained. The UKBA refuses 99% of asylum claims which they have placed in the DFT. This scheme has been heavily criticised.

My client came to the UK on a student visa in order to study for his Masters. He wanted to develop his career further after successfully completing his first degree in his country of origin. At the time of leaving his home country he was also subject to a number of attacks because of his sexuality. As the time approached for him to leave the UK, he had to face the reality that he could not return home as he feared for his life there. Whilst a student in the UK, the client had been able to freely express his sexuality and he had formed a relationship with another man. He knew that if he went back to his home country, he would be persecuted if he tried to be open about his sexuality, and he would be unable to continue his relationship with his partner.

He wanted to know if the UK could protect him and came to our firm for advice. I advised him that he had strong grounds upon which to claim asylum, and explained that he must attend the Asylum Screening Unit (ASU) in Croydon in order to do so. I advised him on the risk of detention, however I provided him with a detailed letter to give to the ASU explaining that he should not be placed in the DFT for reasons including his health conditions and the complexity of his case. Unfortunately, he was still detained. He had not broken any laws but the Home Office decided that his asylum claim could be decided quickly and he was put in Fast Track Detention.

I was very disappointed that the Home Office made this decision as sexuality based claims made by LGBTI individuals are by their nature non-routine and it often takes time to gather necessary evidence. Once a client is placed in the DFT there is very little time between being detained and their asylum interview.

My client’s interview was held over two days, and I accompanied him throughout. In the interview, legal representatives are not allowed to speak for their clients, however I did interject whenever I felt that the interviewing officer was asking inappropriate questions and requested that they be re-phrased. I submitted my client’s statement for the Home Office caseowner to consider prior to the start of the second day of the interview, and I introduced all further evidence to the caseowner at the end.

I was still on my way back to the office from the interview when I received an email from the caseowner stating that she had decided to grant my client refugee status. I was informed that this was the first time she had ever made a grant of asylum. This was a fantastic result, and I was so pleased that my client had a quick resolution and could continue with his plans for the future.

Challenging

The most challenging aspect of this case was the need to get together all of the necessary evidence and finalise statements to such a tight deadline. This was made all the more difficult given that the client was in detention. At the same time I had written detailed representations to the Home Office asserting that our client should be released from detention, and started to assist my client with an application for bail. Thankfully we did not need to pursue this as he was granted status and released straight after his interview.

The Future

I look forward to being able to assist more LGBTI clients who seek protection in this country. I recently undertook my Level 2 ‘Senior Immigration Advisor’ exams. Getting this qualification would mean that I would be able to help more clients in detention.