SELF-HELP KIT: Reopening of an Asylum Application
This self-help kit aims to guide asylum seekers during the reopening of their asylum application.
Disclaimer: This document contains general suggestions for asylum seekers. It is not legal advice. Not all of the sections may apply to you or you may be given different directions by your legal counsel or any relevant authority.
This document is based on various sources, including those written by Asylum Access Thailand, and the Migration and Asylum Project in India, Right to Remain in the UK, and SUAKA in Indonesia. If you are seeking asylum in one of these countries, you can consult these documents on our general Self-Help Kits page, under the section ‘SELF-HELP KITS BY COUNTRY/REGION’.
According to the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is someone who:
- has a well-founded fear of being persecuted because of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion;
- is outside their country of origin or habitual residence;
- Is unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country, or to return there, because of fear of persecution; and
- is not explicitly excluded from refugee protection or whose refugee status has not ceased because of a change of circumstances. Exclusion clauses are laid down in Article 1F or the 1951 Convention. Detailed information about exclusion from refugee status under 1951 Convention and other legal frameworks can be found here.
If you are in Africa, the Organisation of African Unity (OAU) 1969 Convention Governing the Specific Aspects of Refugee Problems in Africa can apply to your case. The OAU Convention expands on the criteria in the 1951 Convention to include:
- Any person compelled to leave his or her country owing to external aggression, occupation, foreign domination or events seriously disturbing public order in either part or the whole of his country of origin or nationality.
If you are in Latin America, the criteria laid down in the 1984 Cartagena Declaration can apply to your case. The Cartagena Declaration expands on the criteria in the 1951 Convention to include:
- Persons who flee their countries because their lives, safety or freedom have been threatened by generalised violence, foreign aggression, internal conflicts, massive violation of human rights or other circumstances which have seriously disturbed public order.
Depending on your country of asylum, other local or international laws and legal standards may apply. Your claim can be processed under different frameworks, and as a result, your rights and entitlements can be different. For example, if you are recognised as a refugee under the 1951 Convention grounds, you can have broader rights for resettlement in comparison to the Cartagena Convention and the OAU Convention grounds. Whenever possible and as it applies, you should try to explain that your refugee status should be recognised on the grounds of the 1951 Convention.
You can find out about the applicable frameworks, legal aid organisations, and other useful information based on your country of asylum in our Refugee Resources of the Rights in Exile platform.
The Refugee Status Determination process (RSD) is the administrative process to determine whether an asylum seeker meets the definition of a refugee under applicable legal frameworks.
States have the primary responsibility in determining refugee status. However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) may take this responsibility if a country does not have an asylum framework and/ or an agreement is in place between the authorities and UNHCR.
RSD processes can be different in different countries. Therefore, you must learn about the RSD process in your country of asylum and your rights and responsibilities. You can find out about the applicable frameworks, legal aid organisations, and other useful information based on your country of asylum in the Refugee Resources of our Rights in Exile platform.
In most countries, you will need to register your asylum application with the UNHCR or relevant national authorities, and hand in identification documents and an asylum statement. You can then be scheduled for an RSD interview.
The relevant authorities will review your statement, verify facts, and ask you questions during your asylum interview. Your aim with your statement and during the interview is to demonstrate to the decision-making bodies that you fit the criteria for being recognised as a refugee. Following this process, authorities will make a decision on your case. They can recognise your status as a refugee or reject your application.
During RSD, the asylum seeker aims to show the decision-making authorities that their refugee status should be recognised.
Here are some general tips to remember throughout the RSD process:
- Familiarise yourself with the decision-making authorities and other relevant organisations, such as non-governmental organisations (NGOs), legal aid providers, or support groups.
- Familiarise yourself with laws and regulations in your country of asylum and seek help where necessary.
- Knowing your rights and responsibilities will help you. For example, in some countries, the state is required to provide asylum seekers with legal assistance. Having legal assistance is an advantage during the status determination process.
- Always adhere to deadlines and attend your appointments. If a deadline has passed or if you have missed an appointment, make sure to contact the relevant authorities as soon as possible. Rearranging missed asylum appointments can be possible but this is often a lengthy and difficult process.
- If your address, telephone number, or email address change during RSD, inform relevant authorities immediately and update your contact details. Otherwise, they may be unable to contact you and this can impact on the processing of your claim.
General information about closing a claim
Your case can be closed in the following situations. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list.
- If your application was rejected and you did not appeal this decision before the deadline.
- If your appeal was rejected.
- If you told the authorities that you are withdrawing your asylum application.
- If you did not attend your interview and did not contact relevant authorities afterwards.
- If the authorities were not able to contact you.
You can reopen your case in the following situations. Please note that this is not an exhaustive list and different deadlines may apply.
If the authorities never made a decision on your case because you withdrew your application before a decision was made or they closed your file administratively:
- You can apply for a reopening by contacting the authorities.
- If your case was closed because you were uncontactable or did not show up for your interview, make sure to explain the reasons briefly.
- In this situation, the usual RSD procedures may apply. You can refer to the RSD Self-help kit for more information about these procedures. Different deadlines may apply so make sure you are aware of them.
If your initial application was rejected and you were not informed of this decision:
- Contact the authorities and inform them that you were not able to appeal the rejection decision. You should ask for a reopening for this reason.
- In this situation, the appeal procedures may apply. You can refer to the appeal self-help kit for more information. Different deadlines may apply so make sure you are aware of them.
If you did not appeal the rejection decision OR if your appeal was also rejected, your case can be opened in one of the following circumstances:
- If there is new information, or a significant change to your circumstances. For example, the political situation in your home country or your personal situation could have changed (your religious affiliation, gender identity, or sexual orientation), leaving you at risk.
- If you have reliable new information that will help you establish that you meet the criteria to be recognised as a refugee.
- If you believe that the relevant authorities did not adequately handle your asylum application. Note that for a reopening to be successful on these grounds, your claim would need to be highly substantiated and backed by clear evidence. Legal representation is recommended if you are pursuing to reopen your case on these grounds.
How should I write my re-opening statement?
When you are applying to reopen your case, you may be required to submit a statement or a declaration. The aim of this statement is to show the authorities that you should be recognised as a refugee.
In your re-opening statement:
- Clearly explain why you are applying for a reopening. You can refer to the reasons outlined above or any other reasons that may apply.
- Provide any new information that will help your asylum claim.
- Clearly explain how you meet the criteria to be recognised as a refugee.
Keep a copy of your statement with you because you might need to refer to it later on, for example, during your interview.
Please note these are suggestions and not an exhaustive list of elements you should include in your statement. If you are given different advice by your legal counsel or if there are other aspects that are relevant to your claim, you can structure your statement differently. re
Your statement should include truthful and complete information.
Your statement should be in your own words. If you can write in your own language, write your statement yourself. If you cannot write,make sure that the person who is writing it for you only includes the information that you ask them to and nothing else.
You can begin by a simple draft, including core facts and events. You can then flesh it out with details and edit out the unnecessary parts.
Do not let anyone intimidate you or talk you into changing the contents of your statements. Only you and your legal counsel can make these decisions.
You may hear rumours about other asylum seekers and what they have included in their statements. Remember, just because a particular information was included in a successful asylum application, it does not mean that it will help your claim. On the contrary, it can hurt your credibility. Your statement should be an authentic and truthful representation of your own experience. It should not be a repetition of other people’s statements.
If you personally know of any other individuals who experienced similar things as you, you can mention them in your statement.
- For example, if you are seeking asylum as a member of the LGBTI community, you can mention that other people in your community were persecuted due to their gender identity or sexual orientation.
- These examples should ideally be specific and have an impact on your fear of persecution. If there are any parts that you are not sure of and have not personally witnessed, you should acknowledge that your knowledge is limited.
Your statement should be chronological. In other words, events should be recounted in the order that they happened. This will help you draw causal connections between events and your statement will be easier to follow.
Include details when you can. Events that you mention should contain the following information:
- Dates and times: When things happened. You can say “On June 20th, 2016…,” “Two weeks after my arrest…,” “During Ramadan 2005…,” etc.
- Places: Where things happened. This can refer to a country, city, building, etc. For example, you can say “In Istanbul…,” “In my brother-in-law’s house in Gidega,” “In the classroom,” etc.
- People: When you can, provide the full names of people and other identifying information. You can talk about both governmental and non-governmental actors that are relevant to your asylum history.
- Duration: How long things have lasted. For example, “I walked for 2 hours,” “They kept me captive for 3 days.”
If you can not remember a specific event or a detail of it, it is okay to acknowledge this. Never make something up. Doing so can damage your credibility.
- When you are unsure, avoid phrases that denote certainty. Instead, use phrases like “I think…”
- For example, if you are unsure of the identity of a person, it is better to say “I think the person who called me and threatened me could have been the police chief,” instead of “The police chief called me and threatened me.”
- When you can, provide dates in day/month/year format. If you cannot remember the exact date of an event, you should try to approximate as much as possible. You can use important events as references to help you remember and say things like “In December 2020, before Christmas…,” “In summer of 2010….”
- Explain why you are unsure and the reasonings behind your deductions. For example, you can say “I couldn’t clearly see as the room was very dark, but I think the person who hit me was male. I thought of this when I heard his voice.”
Make sure you explain why things have happened to you. This is where you should make clear references to the applicable criteria for being recognised as a refugee. Were you wrongly treated because of your race? Your religion? Or your political opinion?
- Do not assume that the people who are reading your statement will know the reasons why you were persecuted. For example, if you belong to an ethnic group that is persecuted in your home country, make sure that you underline this. Even if the authorities already know this, it will be better for you to express yourself in your own words.
When you can, provide explanations and examples. You may think that some details of your situation are crass or inappropriate, but it is still necessary to include them.
- For example, instead of saying “I was insulted by the members of the community and called racial slurs,” it is better to say which members of the community insulted you and which racial slurs they used.
- If you have experienced sexual violence or had reason to fear it, it might be difficult for you to talk about this. You should nevertheless include these types of events in your statement but you do not need to be explicit or graphic. This will help the authorities fully understand your situation.
There may be situations that are relevant to your claim that you do not want to disclose to other applicants in your claim. For example, you may have previous experiences of sexual violence that you do not want to share with your family members. You can raise these matters during your one-on-one interview and request that they are not disclosed to other applicants. You can also request that the interviewers inform you about the confidentiality obligations.
Make sure that the events that you talk about are significant to your asylum claim. You should also clearly lay down why they are significant.
- For example, you may feel that a childhood event had a lasting effect on you, culminating in you feeling unsafe in your country of origin. However, it may not be obvious to the people who are reading your statement. Therefore, always make sure that you clearly lay down these connections.
When it is important in the context, you can briefly explain cultural differences in your statement.
- For example, if you referred to your cousins as brothers or sisters in a particular context, you can tell the authorities that this is common in your culture.
- If your real date of birth does not match the date of birth indicated in your identification documents for cultural or other reasons, you should explain this and include both dates.
Some ethnicities, religions, political organisations, etc. may have multiple names. Make sure you list all the names that you are aware of, including regional ones and the ones in different languages.
Unless you have been diagnosed, avoid using medical terms. Instead, describe how you feel.
- For example, when talking about your mental health, instead of saying “I had PTSD and depression,” you can say “My traumas have a lasting effect on me. I recall certain events during my everyday life, which makes me very distressed and this interferes with my ability to perform daily tasks.”
- If you have been diagnosed with a mental and physical illness, provide details about your diagnosis, such as the name of the doctor and the diagnosing unit.
Try to avoid legal terms. Instead, describe your experience and feelings in your own words.
- For example, instead of saying “I was arbitrarily detained by the police,” you can say “The police officer did not give any explanation as to why I was detained. This left me feeling very confused and vulnerable. I later found out that they did not have any reason for detaining me. I suspected it was because of my gender identity.”
Your statement should be consistent with all the information and documents you have previously supplied to authorities. If there are any inconsistencies, clarify them in your statement. You should also explain why there was an inconsistency.
If you are adding new information to a previous statement or submitting new documents, explain why that information and documents were not included in the first place.
You can structure your statement as follows.
The first section of your statement should include the following information about yourself and your immediate family members who are in the same asylum claim as you:
- name and surname
- date and place of birth
- country of origin
- identity numbers (national identity number, passport number, registration numbers given by the UNHCR, etc.)
- relevant dates (the date you entered your country of asylum, the date you registered your asylum claim, etc.)
- contact information (address, phone number, email address, etc.)
If you are not sure about your date of birth or dates of birth of any family members or if there is a discrepancy about dates of birth between documents, you should explain the discrepancy or lack of documentation honestly and to the best of your knowledge. If you can estimate your age, you should do so and explain the reasoning behind your estimations. For example, you can estimate your age based on the year you started school, the year you got married, etc.
If you are seeking asylum as an unaccompanied child, you should make sure to explicitly mention that you are underage. If you have an identification document that incorrectly shows that you are over the age of 18, you should make sure to address this and provide evidence regarding your real age.You can use important life events to explain your real age. For example, you can say “I started school when I was 6 and had finished 7th grade shortly before I came here. Therefore, I am 13 years old and not 18 as my document incorrectly states.”
Explain any new and relevant events that occurred since your case was closed. These events may include things that have happened in your home country and things that have happened to you. For example:
- a change in political power in your home country may have left you in greater risk of persecution or your home country may have become unstable and insecure due to a new conflict.
- people with similar profiles as you may be newly subjected to human rights violations and persecution in your home country.
- your political affiliation, sexual orientation, religion, etc. may have changed since you left your country of origin and these new traits may put you at risk of persecution.
Make sure to explain any new information in detail and provide documents when you can.
Provide new information in a chronological order. You do not need to include things you have mentioned in your previous statements but you can refer back to them.
If things you mentioned are not new developments and instead details you have omitted to mention in your previous statements, make sure that you explain why they were left out. For example, you may not have realised that they were relevant or you forgot about them.
In this section, you can explain any breaches to procedural fairness that may have led to your application being rejected or closed. Procedural fairness means that authorities must
- Assess your case in a fair and unbiased manner.
- Assess your case without undue delay.
- Base their decisions on applicable laws and regulations.
- Provide reasons for any decision.
- Provide you with ways of expressing yourself and the facts of your case (interviewing you using suitable questions, providing quality translation during your interview, etc.).
Clearly lay down why you should be recognised as a refugee.
Make sure that you refer to the criteria to be recognised as a refugee according to the legal frameworks that apply to you.
You do not need to include everything you have included in your initial application and interview. Instead, summarise them and underline the new or newly clarified facts that support your claim.
Include any supporting documents in your application file and list them at the end of your statement. These documents may include identification documents, medical reports, police reports, documents attesting to your race, religion, ethnicity, or membership to a particular social group, etc.
End your statement by signing your name.
Before handing in your statement, ask the following questions to yourself. If you answer “no” to any, you should consider rewriting your statement.
- Have I reread my statement and checked if all the necessary information is included?
- Do I clearly show why I should be recognised as a refugee??
- Is my statement chronological?
- Would my statement make sense to a third person (in other words, to someone who did now previously know me and my history)?
- Is my statement consistent?
- Is everything I have included true to my knowledge and not exaggerated?
- Have I included all the supporting documents?
- Do I have a copy of my statement and supporting documents as a reference?
We are always looking to expand the resources on our platform. If you know about relevant resources, or you are aware of organisations and individuals to include in our directories, please get in touch.
Last updated January 2023