Hasna Sheikh (QMUL) - 2021-22 Students

To What Extent Do Asylum Authorities in the UK Adjust the Decision-making Process for Asylum Applicants suffering from Trauma Based Illnesses such as PTSD

he refugee status determination procedure in the UK is often criticised for its quality of decision-making and the lack of clarity and consistency amongst decisions. The key research question this thesis seeks to determine is whether the UK’s asylum decision-making process is fit for purpose for assessing claims from asylum seekers who are suffering the effects of trauma. This thesis will evaluate what impact the legal framework, as well as the knowledge, training, and experience of asylum caseworkers has on the way in which decisions are made for this vulnerable group of applicants.

Studies conducted on the effect of conflict on mental health have confirmed that PTSD is one of the most common psychological complications amongst asylum applicants and refugees. However, immigration officials often have a limited understanding of mental health and the impact PTSD has on the ability to provide a consistent and credible account during the refugee status determination process. The effects of PTSD coupled with cultural and communication barriers can have serious consequences in the process of ascertaining credibility in asylum claims. This thesis will comprise a combination of legal-doctrinal analysis with empirical fieldwork, combining knowledge from different legal branches (UK Immigration and asylum law, International Refugee and Human Rights Law) together with government policy guidance, and mental health research. Qualitative research methods will be undertaken to learn from asylum caseworkers as to how they assess claims from applicants with PTSD to better understand their experiences and evaluate how these learnings can help reform the decision-making process.

Primary supervisor: Prof Elspeth Guild, QMUL
Secondary supervisor: Prof. Nikolas Lemos, QMUL

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