News » CGRS Seeks Transparency on Asylum Screening Guidance

CGRS Seeks Transparency on Asylum Screening Guidance

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May 24, 2024

This week the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies (CGRS) filed a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request seeking information on new government guidance which would seemingly permit asylum officers to consider, during the applicant’s initial credible fear interview, their ability to relocate within their home country. While the Biden administration has not yet made this guidance public, the Department of Homeland Security made reference to it in a press release earlier this month announcing its shortsighted proposed rule on the application of statutory bars in credible fear screenings.

Congress designed the credible fear process as a low threshold screening, reserving complex legal questions - such as the feasibility of internal relocation - for a full hearing. This is because the credible fear process takes place within days of an asylum seeker’s arrival in the United States, typically while they are detained and alone, before they have the opportunity to consult with an attorney and prepare evidence to support their case. Consideration of the viability of internal relocation during credible fear screenings would constitute a significant shift in asylum processing.

“Credible fear screenings have life-or-death stakes for people seeking asylum,” Neela Chakravartula, Managing Attorney at the Center for Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS), said today. “Asylum seekers, legal service providers, and the public need to understand how this guidance is being applied. People seeking asylum have never been expected to address internal relocation during their credible fear interview - and for good reason. Proving that internal relocation is not safe or reasonable can require extensive evidence that takes time to compile. In some cases, an asylum seeker will retain an expert witness to testify on human rights conditions in their home country. Most are not even aware of the issue at this early stage of asylum proceedings. We are deeply concerned that this new guidance constitutes yet another unjust barrier to asylum that will result in deportations of refugees to countries where they face persecution and torture."