A template letter is a pre-written letter, containing standard information and completed with the addition of certain details.

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This document is a template letter sent on behalf of the Home Office, from the ‘Asylum Screening Unit’ (ASU) at Lunar House in Croydon to the Asylum Claimant. In this case, the letter informs the claimant that their claim for asylum has been ‘recorded by the Home Office’, and that they must ‘return to the ASU’ for an asylum screening. It also spells out the importance of attending the screening, and warns the claimant that if they do not attend, their ‘application will be refused on non-compliance grounds or withdrawn’. Under the ‘Asylum Support’ heading, it explains to the claimant that they will be accommodated at an ‘initial accommodation centre’ until their screening.

The letter is written in the second person: ‘You have made...’, ‘You have been asked...’, with statements re-iterating information that the claimant needs to, and apparently already should, know. It is also occasionally written in the imperative, ‘You must attend...’, ‘You must take...’.

At the bottom of the page the document reads, ‘THIS IS AN IMPORTANT LETTER’ and ‘DO NOT LOSE OR MISPLACE THIS LETTER’ which imply that the letter itself constitutes a kind of documentation, proof of some kind of status (the claimant needs it to access accommodation), and also that it is irreplaceable - or at least hard to replace. It does not say what might happen if the claimant does lose this letter, which could imply that it’s a fate so terrible that it would be unbearable to write it down. More likely though, the letter is replaceable, even if sending out a replacement letter would give extra, unwanted work to an administrator at Lunar House, and also cause problems for the claimant (not being able to access accommodation, for example). It puts me in mind of the way parents sometimes speak to children, or teachers speak to students. Think of a phrases such as ‘You must do [x] or else’, the ‘or else’ is not specified because, most likely, the behaviour the statement forbids (not doing [x]) is not as bad as the parent/teacher is making out, and would not cause irreparable damage to the situation at hand. The consequences of the behaviour are made to sound worse than they really are, in the hope of scaring the child/student into satisfying the wishes of the parent/teacher without them having to get into details about the more banal and petty consequences that they hope to avoid. This phrasing hides a plea for compliance behind a authoritative statement of power.

All of this information is part of the template, provided to all claimants in the same words, with the same formatting (e.g. the warning about non-compliance is underlined and in bold),

The additional details on the letter, which are presumably filled out by someone at Lunar House are:

-Name, date of birth, nationality of the claimant, and whether they have any dependants

-‘Our ref’ (presumably the ‘our’ here is Lunar House, or the Home Office)

-Date on which the letter was written’

-Date and time for asylum screening.

-Accommodation address (which is dependant on which local council/borough the claimant has been assigned to)

These additional details contain the key information being passed to the claimant by the Home Office. The tone of the letter, which contains implicit information about the relationship between the claimant and the Home Office, comes from the template.