The personal interview
The personal interview is the applicant’s most important appointment within his/her asylum procedure. Advice is therefore available when it comes to preparing for the interview from organisations providing aid, charitable associations or municipal facilities. It is also possible to consult the Asylum Social Counselling service.
It is the "decision-makers" who are responsible for holding the interviews at the Federal Office. 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 on that particular day. If they do not do so, their asylum application can be turned down or the proceedings discontinued without them being questioned once more as to the reasons why they failed to attend.
If the individual is ill on that day or is likely to arrive late, this needs to be notified by telephone on the very same day, and the doctor’s note needs to be forwarded by post in case of illness.
If the individual is unable to attend at the time stated in the summons because of the considerable distance to be travelled, and is therefore likely to arrive late, it is necessary to state in writing or telephone at the latest one day in advance the earliest time at which it is possible to attend an appointment. This enables the staff on the spot to plan their appointments better.
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. It is fundamentally possible for another person enjoying the applicant’s trust to attend in order to provide assistance. This individual must be able to identify himself or herself, and may not personally be in the asylum procedure, or their hearing date may not be in the immediate future.
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.