The Home Office asks people seeking asylum to complete a form known as a Preliminary Information Questionnaire (PIQ). It is a 17-page document out of which just over one page is about the reasons for claiming asylum. Included in the statements on the first page are the following:

  • “Information may be shared with other UK government departments or agencies, local authorities, international organisations and other bodies to enable them to carry out their functions;”
  • “We may also share information with other countries, which may be responsible for considering your claim;”
  • “Any information we share is to enable the Home Office and other organisations to carry out their functions, including the prevention and detection of crime.”

At the bottom of page 1 it states:

“This form MUST be completed in English and returned to the Home Office” with a date by which it should be submitted and an address to which it should be sent.

Despite that statement, it is not in fact compulsory to complete it. The PIQ is simply the current way that the Home Office has chosen to collect information to, firstly, decide if the UK is responsible for the claim and, secondly, even if it is, to obtain information that will be used to decide if the person should be granted asylum.

There are parts of the PIQ which are misleading and there is an absence of questions which are directly relevant to what the Home Office is required to take into account.

Failure to submit information and evidence early on in a claim or failure to explain why a claim is being made at a particular stage, can, for example, be taken as damaging the credibility of the claim. This is particularly given changes in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. It is, therefore, harmful to complete it, particularly if it is used without further information, evidence and accompanying representations. And yet the lack of free legal advice and assistance will mean that many will complete it without knowing the consequences. For some, this will be in a language that they do not read or understand. Even for those with legal representation, their lawyers may not properly consider the implications of completing the PIQ.

It is useful to look at the section in detail at the section on asylum.

The asylum questions in the PIQ

Part 3 of the PIQ is headed ‘Your reasons for claiming asylum in the UK’ and states:

“This form is to help you provide information about the reasons why you need protection in the UK. The information requested is to help the Home Office understand why you are afraid to go home ahead of your asylum interview”

There are four questions:

“ 1. Why do you fear returning to your home country and what do you fear will happen if you were to return?

2. Details of any specific events in which you were personally involved that relate to your asylum claim and any specific person, organisation or group you fear. Please include dates for these events, where you can.

3. How did you travel to the UK including details of anything that happened to you on your journey?

4. Details of anything that has happened since you arrived in the UK which has made you afraid to return home.” (emphasis in the original)

Question 1

Let’s look at the questions in more detail starting with question 1: “Why do you fear returning to your home country and what do you fear will happen if you were to return?”

The test of whether a person requires protection is a test of what may happen in the future and it does not need to happen immediately on return. The legal terms used are whether there is a ‘reasonable likelihood’ of persecution or a ‘real risk’ of serious harm. Neither this question or those which follow specifically asks what has happened in the past.

However, what has happened in the past, to them or to people – in their family/ethnic group/religious community/political group – also informs what may happen in the future. As paragraph 339K in the Immigration Rules says:

“The fact that a person has already been subject to persecution or serious harm, or to direct threats of such persecution or such harm, will be regarded as a serious indication of the person’s well-founded fear of persecution or real risk of suffering serious harm, unless there are good reasons to consider that such persecution or serious harm will not be repeated.”

So there is an absence of a question that may be central to a person’s asylum claim.

Question 2

“2. Details of any specific events in which you were personally involved that relate to your asylum claim and any specific person, organisation or group you fear.” (emphasis in the original)

A person does not need to be involved in any ‘event’ for there to be a real risk of persecution of serious harm on return. The fear may arise simply because of who they are, what they believe and/or who they are associated with. In addition, nothing may have happened to date.

In addition, it is not only what has happened to the person claiming asylum but also, and perhaps instead, to people in their family, ethnic group, etc., which may be as and possibly more important. As the Home Office says in its guidance to its own staff, Assessing Credibility:

“Examples of material facts can include a claimant’s personal circumstances e.g. gender, nationality, ethnicity, membership of a political party, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and past experiences of ill-treatment e.g. arrests, periods of detention and torture, locations and episodes of threats or violence at the hands of state or non-state agents.”

The fear to return may relate to something that has happened to people who are ‘similarly situated’ or because of their connection to someone else who is the main target.

Abdul was part of a small cell of four people in his country when he came to the UK as a student. The cell was part of a larger organisation which was seeking to bring about change in the country. When Abdul heard that one of the cell had been arrested and detained, he realised that he could not risk returning as there was a risk that he may be identified through the torture and interrogation of his colleague.

If Abdul interpreted PIQ question 2 literally, his answer would be that nothing had happened to him personally.

Question 3

“3. How did you travel to the UK including details of anything that happened to you on your journey?”

The first part of that question covers what will been asked already in the screening interview. It is partly designed to find out if there is another country that might be considered responsible for the asylum claim rather than the UK. In other words, it might lead to an ‘inadmissibility’ decision or, at the very least, a delay in considering the claim whilst a decision is made about whether the UK is responsible for the claim. Even if the claim is considered in the UK, the fact that someone has been in another country after leaving their own has consequences. Firstly, it may lead to a finding that the claim is lacking in credibility.

Secondly, it may lead to a decision that the person, even if granted asylum, is a ‘Group 2’ refugee with less rights and less security than a ‘Group 1’ refugee if they claimed asylum on or after 28 June 2022. There are no questions in the PIQ that provide an opportunity to address these key issues.

Home Office guidance to caseworkers, Permission to stay on a protection route, gives examples of scenarios which may lead to a decision to deny Group 1 status, including:

“Scenario 1: There is evidence to suggest the claimant had spent a couple of weeks in a city staying with friends whilst trying to find an agent to bring them illegally to the UK. This would likely mean that they had been in that particular country and could reasonably have been expected to have applied for asylum there, provided the country had an effective asylum system.”

It is not enough to ask about what happened en route to the UK but to assess the impact that this had on a person and why it has increased their fear of removal from the UK, including to countries such as Rwanda, where they will be separated from any family or community support in the UK.


Question 4

“Details of anything that has happened since you arrived in the UK which has made you afraid to return home” (emphasis in the original)

It is not enough to ask about experiences in the UK without any guidance on what that might include or how that might be relevant.



Part 9 of the PIQ is headed: Documentation in support of your claim It contains the following statement:

“You must provide all documentation at your disposal regarding your age, background, identity, nationality, previous places of residence and travel routes.”

The following question is in the box below the opening statement in section 9:

“How does the document relate to your claim?”

However, there is nothing else in that section that indicates that documents to support the claim to need protection are the most important documents and that it might be necessary to get them confirmed as authentic.

Hassan worked for an international humanitarian organisation in his country. As a result, he was accused of being a traitor to his country by those opposed to the involvement of foreign powers. Hassan had documents with him on arrival in the UK which included the offer and contract of employment, his identity card, certificates for training that he had received and a bank card issued to staff of the organisation. The organisation authenticated the documents and confirmed that, for example, the author of the offer of employment was, at the time, the country director.

Inclusions and omissions from the PIQ

The PIQ also asks for:

  • Addresses in the home country for last 5 years (and length of residence in them);
  • Details of education and, in particular, names of schools and length of time in them;
  • Last place of employment before leaving home country and name and address of employer.

Little or none of the information about places of residence, education, employment and a child’s school in the UK is directly relevant to a determination as to whether someone is in need of international protection. Some of it repeats information already obtained through the screening process. The Home Office is gathering information that is not particularly about a person’s need for protection. It is not clear why or how they use the information obtained.

Someone who is arrested in the UK is given a warning that anything they say may be taken down and used. In the case of people seeking asylum, it is all too often that it is taken down and used against them without them even knowing that this is what will happen. Using the PIQ as it is, increases the risks of refusal for anyone claiming asylum.

TACTIC offers information and training sessions on Preparing Asylum Claims, including statements, interviews and appeals.