In a new Home Office Policy Instruction on Refugee Leave, dated 2nd March 2017, the Home Office have implemented that a safe return review of the applicants circumstances will be carried out before consideration is given to granting them settlement
This means that when someone with limited refugee leave applies to extend that leave, a safe return review, will be carried out, with reference to the country situation at the date the application, to assess whether the applicant still requires protection.
Where they no longer need protection they will not qualify for further refugee leave or settlement protection and will need to apply to stay on another basis or leave the UK.
The policy appears to be effective immediately for all refugee settlement applications, including for refugees already resident in the UK and who were expecting to qualify automatically for settlement
The previous policy, in place since 2005, was that a refugee would be granted an initial period of five years of limited leave and at the end of that period would automatically be granted settlement on application with the exception of where the applicant was engaged in criminal activity or there was a ministerial statement that a particular country was safe now.
The new policy states:
All those who apply for settlement protection after completing the appropriate probationary period of limited leave will be subject to a safe return review with reference to the country situation at the date the application is considered. Those who still need protection at that point will normally qualify for settlement. Caseworkers must refer to the Settlement Protection instruction for more detailed guidance on considering such applications.
Under the new Settlement Protection Instruction, the Home Office policy is to refuse settlement where:
- There has been “a significant and non-temporary change in country situation”,
- A change in personal circumstances,
- The refugee has returned to their country of origin or obtained a national passport from that country.
- Refugees may also be refused if there is evidence the original decision to recognise refugee status was incorrect or any of their dependents had travelled home.
The instructions say that a change in country situation refers to significant and non-temporary events that remove well-founded fears of persecution. Caseworkers are asked to note that the overthrow of one party by another or the election of a new government may not automatically mean there is no longer a risk of persecution.
Dr Lisa Doyle, of the Refugee Council, said: “This policy will result in refugees who have demonstrated their need for protection being prevented from being able to properly rebuild their lives and being left with the constant fear of return hanging over their heads.
Immigration Barrister Colin Yeo said that the change in personal circumstances may hit female refugees particularly hard and it may prove difficult to show that a risk of domestic violence or female genital mutilation remains five years after their original asylum claim.
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