Refugees and asylum-seekers
79. The Special Rapporteur was informed that asylum claims in the United Kingdom, including those based on well-founded fear of religious persecution, are subject to rigid scrutiny and that few applications are successful in the initial decision or in the appeal procedure. Since there is no official data available on how many asylum-seekers sought asylum in the United Kingdom on grounds of religious persecution, further research and aggregated data collection may be useful in order to analyse the issues involved with regard to freedom of religion or belief. Such research by the Government, civil society or academia may also deal with the situation of individuals converting after their departure from their country of origin and their refugee sur place claims. The Special Rapporteur would like to reiterate that a post-departure conversion should not give rise to a presumption that the claim is fabricated and the immigration authorities should evaluate the genuineness of the conversion on a case-by-case basis taking into account theapplicant’s past and present circumstances. Furthermore, the Special Rapporteur stresses the importance of reliable interpretation services and the impartiality of interpreters in order to avoid serious disadvantages for the asylum-seekers.
80. With regard to country of origin information, the Special Rapporteur welcomes the fact that the Operational Guidance Notes as well as the Country of Origin Information Service are publicly available. For the whole asylum determination process it seems crucial not only to have accurate and objective but also up-to-date information on asylum-seekers’ countries of origin. The Special Rapporteur would like to emphasize that case adjudicators should not exclusively base their decisions on these selected sources, especially when the situation in the country of origin or the region in question has allegedly changed since they were last updated. With regard to immigration detention or removal centres, especially when their management is contracted out to a private company, the Government should monitor if the religious needs of the detainees are in fact met.