UK Home Office publishes Operational Guidance Note on Syria

Monday, March 3, 2014

The UK Home Office has published February 2014 guidance for its first-instance decision-makers on determining asylum claims issued by Syrian nationals. On account of the general security situation in Syria, the guidance recommends that ‘where applicants are likely to be perceived by the Syrian authorities as having sympathies or actual ties to the opposition, asylum should be granted’. This is held to apply mainly to those from the main cities, areas of fighting, and areas held by armed opposition groups.

The guidance also identifies Syrian Kurds with an activist profile, perceived opposition sympathisers, known activists of the Muslim Brotherhood, deserters from the Syrian army and those at risk of conscription as appropriate for grants of asylum. Female victims of sexual violence and women accused of offences against family honour ‘are likely to be able to show that they fall into the category of a Particular Social Group’ for the purposes of the Refugee Convention.

Even where protection under the Refugee Convention is not justified, the humanitarian crisis and levels of violence are such that ‘most applicants, in their individual circumstances’ will, if returned to Syria, be at risk of harm sufficient to attract either humanitarian protection under the UK Immigration Rules or subsidiary protection under the EU Qualification Directive. Either such protection entails limited leave to remain in the UK.

The overall country assessment cautions that if an applicant alleges persecution by a non-state agent in Syria, ‘the provision of effective state protection is unlikely to be available given the internal armed conflict and absence of the rule of law’. Although the guidance indicates that possibilities of safe internal relocation within Syria should be assessed according to the individual circumstances of the applicant, the Home Office also warns that ‘the consistently high levels and unpredictable locations of violence result in severe constraints on movement throughout the country’.

The note reminds decision-makers of the December 2012 judicial country guidance of the UK Upper Tribunal, which rules it ‘likely that a failed asylum seeker or forced returnee would, in general, on arrival face a real risk of arrest and detention and of serious mistreatment during that detention as a result of imputed political opinion. That is sufficient to qualify for refugee protection’.

Read the UK Home Office’s Operational Guidance Note for Syria.

This item was reproduced with the permission of ECRE from the weekly ELENA legal update supported by the Fundamental Rights and Citizenship Funding Programme and distributed by email. The purpose of these updates is to inform asylum lawyers and legal organizations supporting asylum seekers and refugees of recent developments in the field of asylum law. Please note that the information provided is taken from publicly available information on the internet. Every reasonable effort is made to make the content accurate and up to date at the time each item is published but no responsibility for its accuracy and correctness, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed by ECRE, the IRC or its partners.