Asylum is protection given by a country to someone who is fleeing persecution in their own country. It is given under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. To be recognized as a refugee, you must have left your country and be unable to go back because you have a well-founded fear of persecution because of your race; religion; nationality; political opinion; or membership of a particular social group.
Applying for Asylum in the UK
The United Kingdom adheres to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents returning someone to a country where there is a real risk they will be exposed to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. If you do not qualify for asylum but there are humanitarian or other reasons why you should be allowed to stay in the United Kingdom, you may be given temporary permission to remain here.
You must make your application in person as soon as possible after arriving in the United Kingdom at your point of entry to the United Kingdom or, if you are already in the country, to either of the Home Office asylum screening units at Croydon or Liverpool. If you delay your application for asylum, it may affect your ability to prove your reasons for it.
Since March 2007, all new asylum applications are being managed by a system which places them with a single person who will deal with every aspect of the application from beginning to end. This person is known as a case owner. You will be allocated to a case owner once you have already been screened, either at Croydon or Liverpool or at the port where you entered the country.
Asylum Screening Process
At the screening unit, you will be interviewed briefly about your identity and how you traveled to the United Kingdom. You will be expected to produce your passport or travel document to establish your identity and nationality and to support your application. This will then be retained while a decision is made on your application. Your fingerprints, photograph, and any other physical identification information the Home Office think is required will be taken. This is to prevent fraud and multiple applications by the same person. You will be asked some basic questions about your application. If you have children or other dependants, they should go with you to the screening unit so that they can be included in your application.
There exists an agreement between European countries (The Dublin Convention) to the effect that the first country through which an asylum seeker passes should be the country responsible for processing his claim for asylum. The Home Office may therefore make enquiries with other European countries to ascertain whether you passed through any country en route to the United Kingdom where you could have claimed asylum. This is usually done through a fingerprint search following the screening interview.
Further under s8 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants) Act 2004, the Home Office are entitled to treat certain types of behaviour as damaging to your credibility. The behaviour includes failure to produce a passport on request, producing an invalid passport as if it were a valid passport, destroying, altering or disposing of a passport, travel document or ticket and failure to answer questions. The Home Office will also consider whether you failed to take an opportunity to claim asylum in a safe country and the timing of the asylum application, i.e. if you failed to claim asylum before being arrested or notified of an immigration decision. If it is established that this behaviour has occurred, you will need to provide a reasonable explanation as to why you acted in the manner alleged.
At the screening unit, you will normally be given an application registration card, often known as an ARC. This shows you have made an application for asylum and contains your personal details and photograph. This card is then required to claim support from NASS (see below). Any loss of the card must be reported to the police immediately and a replacement card obtained as soon as possible.
Your case owner is the person who will deal with every aspect of your application for asylum, from beginning to end, including interviewing you and making the decision on your application.
At the interview you will be asked to explain your reasons for seeking asylum in the United Kingdom. You must attend your asylum interview. Your application for asylum can be refused if you do not attend your interview. The full interview is your chance to tell the Home Office why you fear return to your country. You must be able to satisfy your case owner about who you are and the country you are from. This is your opportunity to provide evidence of what you say and any papers you have to support your application. It is vital that you give your case owner all the information you wish to be considered. He/she will use this information to make the decision on your application.
Whilst the Home Office is considering your application you will not be removed or required to leave the United Kingdom. However, if you decide to leave voluntarily before there is a decision on the asylum claim, then the Home Office will treat the claim as being abandoned.
Whilst your application for asylum is being processed, you will be required to report to the Home Office on a regular basis. Your case owner will tell you when you are expected to report to the Home Office. At your first meeting with your case owner, you will be given a form that confirms your address and any requirements you must follow, such as regular reporting. You should always take this form with you when you report to the Home Office, together with your application registration card. If you do not report when you should, any support you are receiving may stop and you may be detained.
National Asylum Support Service (NASS)
The Home Office will assess your circumstances and needs. If you are not able to support yourself and your family while your application is considered, you may apply to the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) for money and somewhere to live. However, if you did not apply for asylum until some time after your arrival in the United Kingdom, NASS may not be able to help you with support unless it is necessary to do so to prevent a breach of your rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).
If you meet the requirements to receive support, you will be given suitable housing and your case owner will arrange for you to collect money from a post office near where you live. The money will enable you to buy essential things such as food, clothing and toiletries. If you do not require accommodation but need money for essential things, or you need accommodation but not money, you can apply for partial support.
Support will be given on certain conditions, and you must sign an agreement to say you will obey those conditions. If you don’t, your support may be stopped. If you are provided with housing, you will not be able to choose where you live. You will be sent to wherever suitable housing is available within the United Kingdom. To collect your cash support, you will need to show your application registration card.
If your asylum application has been rejected, you may be able to receive short-term support while you are waiting to return to your country of origin. This is known as section 4 support because it is given under the terms of section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999.
You will not normally be allowed to work while you are waiting for a decision. However, if the Home Office do not make an initial decision on your application within 12 months of you making your claim, the Home Office may issue you with permission to take up employment.
The Home Office aims to give you a decision on your application within about 30 days of the date on which you made your application, however, it is often longer than this before a decision is made.
Successful Asylum Application
Refugee Status: If you are recognized as a refugee, you will be given asylum and a residence permit that allows you to enter and stay in the United Kingdom for an initial period of five years. If you have any dependants, they will be given the same permission. This period of leave is subject to active review which essentially means that if there is a substantive change in the situation of your country or in your personal circumstances which affects your status as a refugee, the leave you have been given can be revoked. If you are granted refugee status then you will be eligible to apply for a UN travel document from the Home Office. As a refugee you would also be entitled to be joined in the United Kingdom by your spouse and any minor children if they are not with you in the United Kingdom.
Humanitarian Protection: If the Home Office consider that you would, if removed, face a serious risk to life or person arising from the death penalty; unlawful killing or torture or inhuman or degrading treatment/punishment, they may grant you humanitarian protection. Any grant of humanitarian protection is for five years, however, this can be granted for shorter periods. You would have the right to be joined by your minor children and spouse if they are not with you in the United Kingdom. If you are granted humanitarian protection for five years, there is an avenue to apply for settlement after this period, if the reason that gave rise to the need to protection continues to exist. There will be an active review by the Home Office at the end of the five year stage and extensions or indefinite to leave to remain will only be granted where circumstances continue to justify such extensions or indefinite leave to remain.
Discretionary Leave: If you are not granted refugee status or humanitarian protection but the Home Office consider that there is any other compelling reason why you should not be returned to your country of origin, you can be granted this type of permission to stay in the United Kingdom for a limited period. The period will not usually be more than three years but can be extended upon application to the Home Office. An application for settlement cannot be made until at least six years of discretionary leave have been completed (this may be ten years in some cases). You may be granted Discretionary Leave to Remain if you are under 18 years of age and there are not adequate arrangements in place in your home country for you to be returned there or if you have a serious medical condition or strong family ties in the United Kingdom. There is no right to be joined by your existing spouse and children who may remain in your home country.
Unsuccessful Asylum Application
If your asylum application is refused, the Home Office may decide you are able to stay here for humanitarian or other reasons, in which case you may be given permission to stay temporarily. However, if the Home Office decides there are no reasons for you to stay, your application will be refused and you and your dependants will be expected to leave the United Kingdom. You may have the right to appeal against any refusal of your application to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal usually within 10 working days of receiving the decision on your application. If you have the right to appeal, your case owner will give you the form you need to complete to make the appeal. You must make your appeal within the time allowed for doing so. If you are late in making your appeal, the Tribunal may decide not to hear it. If you are receiving asylum support, this will continue during any appeal you make. If you do not appeal, the support will stop once the deadline for making an appeal has passed, unless you have dependants under the age of 18.
Contact Sultan Lloyd Solicitors
If you need some advice on seeking asylum in the UK, call us on: 01212482850 or email: [email protected]. Alternatively, click here to make an online enquiry.
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