Refugees’ Experiences of Home Office Interviews – A Qualitative Study Focussing on the Disclosure of Sensitive Personal Information

Decisions on refugee status rely heavily on judgments about how individuals present themselves and their histories. For example, late or non-disclosure of sensitive personal information may be assumed to be a result of fabrication by the asylum claimant. Such assumptions however, if incorrect, can lead to genuine refugees in need of protection being refused asylum. A study employing semi-structured interviews with 27 refugees and asylum seekers with traumatic histories was conducted to explore the factors involved in the disclosure of sensitive personal information during Home Office interviews. The majority of participants experienced the Home Office interviews as difficult, and many reported difficulties with disclosing personal details. The attitude of the interviewer emerged as the strongest factor in either facilitating or impeding disclosure. The interview data also showed that disclosure was not just based on personal decisions and internal processes, but also related to interpersonal-, situational-, and contextual factors. Recommendations for improving Home Office procedures will be discussed.

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