The UK has signed up to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, which means that under certain circumstances it will offer asylum to people who may be persecuted in their own country. The process of applying for asylum in the UK is very complicated however, and being granted asylum is by no means guaranteed, so you should seek specialist advice to discover whether you and/ or your family might qualify. The UK Border Agency is responsible for processing asylum claims. It aims to conclude all new asylum applications within six months. This means that within six months:
To be recognised as a refugee and thus claim asylum in the UK, you must have left your country and be unable to go back because there is a real danger that you’ll face persecution if you do. This could be on the basis of your:
Even if you fail to qualify for asylum you may be given temporary permission to remain here on humanitarian or some other grounds.
Your first step in the asylum process is to attend a screening unit where you will face a brief interview about your application and will then be finger-printed, photographed and any other physical identification information will be noted. This is designed to combat fraud and multiple applications by the same person. You will need to produce:
Your children or other dependants should come with you to the screening so they can be included in your application. An interpreter will be provided if necessary.
A case owner deals with every aspect of your application process. They will be your only point of contact and are responsible for:
Once you have applied for asylum, you will have a meeting with your case owner within a few days. At this first meeting, the asylum process will be explained and you will be invited to an interview where your application will be fully assessed. Help finding legal representation will be offered and you’ll be given a form that confirms your address and any requirements you must follow (eg, reporting requirements). If you couldn’t produce your passport or travel documents at the screening unit you will need to bring them to this first meeting.
The asylum interview is your chance to explain why you are seeking asylum in the UK and why you’re too scared to return to your country. Any evidence supporting your claim should be produced here. You will also have to satisfy your case owner about who you are and the country you are from. The interview takes place about a week after your first meeting with your case owner. You must attend this interview otherwise your application will be rejected. You may also be required to enrol your biometrics (ie, your fingerprints and facial image), as part of the asylum process. You can bring a lawyer to represent you and tape-record the interview if you wish. An interpreter will be provided if need be. When the interview is over you will need sign the interview record to say you’ve received a copy of it.
Your case owner aims to give you our decision within about 30 days of the date on which you made your application. You will not usually be able to work while you are waiting for a decision but you will be assessed by your case owner to see if you’re eligible for support such as housing and living costs. It’s likely you will need to report in on a regular basis to the UK Border Agency – if you fail to do so, the support you’re getting will stop and you may be detained. If your personal or financial circumstances change, you must tell your case owner in writing immediately. For example, you should tell your case owner if:
Asylum applicants have rights and responsibilities while they are in the UK.
You have the right to:
If you’re granted asylum you will be given a biometric residence permit that allows you to enter and stay in the UK for up to five years. You can also apply for travel documents so you can go in and out of the UK (though you can’t visit the country you were seeking asylum from). It also gives you the same rights to work, benefits, etc. as all other permanent UK residents. Any dependants will be given the same permission. Your case owner will give you all the documents and information you need to start your life in the UK. You can renew your residence permit, or apply for permanent residence, at the end of the five years, unless there are serious reasons to refuse.
If you are not recognised as a refugee, but qualify for humanitarian protection, you may be given discretionary leave to remain (although this is given only in limited circumstances). The length of time you are allowed to stay and how often the permission is reviewed will vary depending on your circumstances but it is unlikely to be more than three years initially (although this may be extended on application).
If your asylum application is refused, you may have the right to appeal against the decision to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. Grounds for appeal include race discrimination or human rights breaches. You may also appeal if the decision was not in line with the immigration rules or in line with the law; or if the case owner’s decision was perverse. You will continue to receive asylum support until after the appeal. If the appeal fails, you and your dependants will have to return to your country of origin. If you don’t go voluntarily, you will be removed by force by the UK Border Agency and you could be imprisoned until you are removed.
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