The personal interview is the applicant’s most important appointment within his/her asylum procedure. Advice is therefore available from organisations providing aid when it comes to preparing for the interview.
It is the “decision-makers” who are responsible for holding the interviews at the Federal Office of Migration and Refugees (BAMF). They invite applicants to attend this appointment, where an interpreter will also be on hand.
Applicants absolutely must attend this appointment, or they must state in good time and in writing why they are unable to attend (for instance for health-related reasons). If they do not do so, their asylum application can be turned down or the proceedings discontinued.
The interviews are not public, but they may be attended by an attorney or by a representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), and by a guardian in the case of unaccompanied minors. The permission of the Federal Office must be obtained in advance if another person enjoying the applicant’s trust is to attend.
The objective of the interviews is to learn of the individual reasons for flight, to obtain more information and to resolve contradictions. To this end, the decision-makers are familiar with the circumstances prevailing in the applicants’ countries of origin. How long an interview lasts very much depends on the persecution which an individual has suffered and on the applicants themselves.
Applicants are afforded sufficient time during the interview to present their respective reasons for taking flight. They describe their biographies and situations, tell of their travel route and of the persecution which they have personally suffered. They also assess what would await them were they to return to their country of origin. They are obliged to state the truth at all times and to provide any evidence which they have been able to obtain. These may be photographs, documents from the police or other authorities, and possibly also medical reports. The Federal Office may not be able to take facts, incidents or documents which applicants are unable to state or present during the interview into account later or in court proceedings.
The descriptions are interpreted and minutes are taken, and are then translated back for the applicant after the interview. This enables them to add to what they have said, or to make corrections. They are then presented with the minutes for them to approve them by signing them.
The appointment is postponed should problems of understanding or health-related problems occur during the interview.
Participation by the UNHCR
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) monitors in order to ensure compliance with the Geneva Refugee Convention. If the UNHCR requests information for his work, the Federal Office provides it. The UNHCR may also attend interviews in the asylum procedure. He may furthermore inspect the decisions of the Federal Office and their reasoning in order to perform his tasks.
If it is necessary for the applicant for personal reasons, where possible the interview can be carried out or continued by a person of the same sex, and an interpreter of the same sex can attend.
The Federal Office has specially-trained decision-makers dealing with gender-specific human rights violations such as rape, other types of sexual abuse and threat of genital mutilation.
This also applies to victims of torture and trauma or to victims of human trafficking. The Federal Office furthermore has specially-trained specially-commissioned case-officers to deal with this (see Decision-makers).
Applicants should express such a wish as early as possible prior to the interview, ideally as soon as they file their application.
Should there be any doubts as to applicants’ identity, the Federal Office carries out an examination using language and text analyses with the involvement of language experts. Such cases are reported to the Federal Office’s own Security division. The division works closely with the Joint Extremism and Counter-Terrorism Centre (GETZ) and with the Joint Counter-Terrorism Centre (GTAZ). Secondly, it carries out an automatic data comparison with the security authorities within the bounds imposed by privacy laws.
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