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Improving the asylum system by making it more trauma-sensitive for vulnerable people

Published: 15 April 2024

The project ‘Towards A Trauma-Informed Asylum Process and Services’ worked with young people seeking asylum to produce a set of trauma-informed practice (TIP) guidelines.

Implementing TIP in the asylum system can have long-term benefits for young people seeking asylum and working professionals. 

It can safeguard young people’s welfare and protect their mental health. For the professionals in the system, it can enhance the quality of their work and decision-making processes. 

Understanding the asylum process

During two workshops, young people seeking asylum shared their traumatic experiences of the UK asylum system. Together with the professionals working with them, they identified the following distressing factors:  

  • lack of knowledge about their rights and access to support 
  • legal complexities of the asylum system 
  • language, cultural and social barriers 

The asylum process itself can be mentally draining. The constant fear of deportation and the inability to plan for the future further heighten the emotional burden.

A workshop participant 

Learning from the findings

The report and guidelines emphasised the need of building trust between asylum claimants and professionals in the system and encouraging compassionate engagement throughout the asylum process.  

  • All organisations working with asylum-seeking people should embed TIP training 
  • It is important to effectively monitor and evaluate the implementation of TIP 
  • The lived experience of people seeking asylum should shape the content and delivery of TIP training 
  • Organisational culture must change to allow for effective implementation of TIP 

Co-developing trauma informed practice guidelines for the asylum process

This interview was designed and conducted by young people seeking-asylum that are supported by the Shpresa Programme. This is a refugee charity supporting Albanian asylum-seekers in London. The recording was part of the workshop “Co-developing Trauma-Informed Practice Guidelines & Recommendations for the Asylum” organised by Dr Ingi Iusmen (Politics) and Professor Jana Kreppner (Psychology) at Southampton University in May 2023.

The next step

The research team will share the findings and the report with key groups, such as: 

  • refugee charities 
  • legal and mental health professionals 
  • Home Office staff involved in the asylum decision-making processes 

We’ll run presentations and workshops. This will promote the take-up and application of the trauma-informed practice guidelines for the asylum process. 

We plan to run dissemination and training activities with the partner organisations and the young people who worked on the project. 

Trauma affects how you tell your story: that’s used against you [...] Re-living your trauma by re-telling your story: [Home Office officials] need to standardise the interview in line with human rights provisions. [Home Office caseworkers] need to understand trauma and storytelling.

A workshop participant 

This project was funded by the Research England Participatory Research Fund. 

The project is based on research funded by Economic and Social Research Council, LOHST project: ESRC ES/W000474/1 project, 2021-2023: led by H. Stalford (Liverpool) together with E. Chase (UCL), Iusmen and Kreppner (Southampton). This project also included participatory (peer research) and co-production methods. 

Related publications

William Shankley,
Helen Stalford,
Elaine Chase,
, 2023 , International Journal of Qualitative Methods , 22
Type: article
Helen Stalford,
Elaine Chase,
& William Shankley
, 2023
Type: other