Claiming asylum in the UK
A person can seek asylum in the UK if they are fleeing persecution in their own country. To be eligible, this person must be unable to be protected by their own country’s government. They can be fleeing because of environmental factors (such as war or political unrest), or because they are being personally persecuted because of their race, religion, sexuality, or gender. There is no set rule for the reasons a person can claim asylum in the UK.
An asylum claim can be made at any UK port. While a person waits for the results of their claim, they are given temporary accommodation and a small living allowance. Once a person has been granted asylum, they become a refugee – and they are granted full protection by the state.
If you want to find out more about asylum applications, you can contact our London office on 020 3883 6530. We can set you up with one of our UK-based Legal Aid lawyers.
How to claim asylum in the UK
You can claim UK asylum at any British port. This includes boat and ferry ports, like Dover, and airports.
You should aim to make this claim as quickly as possible on entering the UK. To do this, you should find a member of staff and tell them you want to claim asylum. If you come to the UK without making an asylum claim you will be considered an undocumented migrant, and this could affect any claim you make in the future.
Everyone has a right to claim asylum, no matter where you have come from or who you are. Once you have made a claim, you will also qualify for accommodation and a small allowance, if you are destitute or without funds. Once you have this, you can use Legal Aid to make your case to the Home Office.
Requirements for asylum
For a successful claim, you will need to prove that you have a “genuine and well-founded” fear of persecution, based on one or more of the following grounds:
- Membership to a social group (such as the LGBTQ+ community)
- Political stance
In certain situations, the Government will grant automatic asylum based on your nationality to a certain country. This happens when the area is deemed dangerous for all citizens. Examples of this include Syria and Venezuela. You also need to show that your home country’s Government can’t or won’t protect you.
The UK asylum process
Once you have made an initial claim at a port, you will be placed in accommodation (if you need it) and granted an allowance of £37.75 per week per single asylum seeker.
When you have this, you can use Legal Aid-funded lawyer services. Your lawyer will help you organise your case, to prove that you have a genuine and well-founded fear of persecution.
Asylum claims can take up to 180 days to process. During this time, you will continue to receive funds and accommodation.
You will usually be asked to attend an interview with the Home Office. During this time, you will likely be asked to attend an interview with the Home Office.
Once you have attended your interview, you will receive a decision letter on your asylum claim in the post. If your claim is accepted, you will automatically be granted leave to remain as a refugee. If it is not, you can choose to appeal your case. You must do so within 30 days.
You can qualify for Legal Aid as an asylum seeker if you do not have a substantial income or savings when you flee to the UK. This means you are entitled to legal help from a qualified immigration lawyer or solicitor.
You can receive this in the form of advice sessions or complete application and document support.
To apply for Legal Aid you must have already made a claim for asylum in the UK. You can then attend a drop-in session at a Legal Aid registered law firm, where your lawyer will be able to apply for legal aid on your behalf or advise you on this.
To do this, you should bring with you proof that you receive asylum support for your session.
Once you have qualified, your lawyer can advise you accordingly on your case.
The asylum interview (and what happens next)
The purpose of the asylum interview is to determine whether your fear is genuine and well-founded. This is also often called the ‘substantive interview’.
This interview is a chance for you to make your case to the Home Office. If English is not your first language, and you need a translator present, this will be arranged in time for your interview.
You should ask for your interview to be recorded in the run-up to it. You must do this at least 24 hours before your scheduled interview starts. You can also request a male or female interviewer if you feel more comfortable with one particular gender.
You cannot take anyone to your interview with you apart from your lawyer. However, it is important to note that this service is not covered by Legal Aid. These interviews can last up to a few hours. You are entitled to ask for a break if and when you need it.
You should take the following documents with you (your interview cannot be conducted without them):
- Your application registration card (called an ARC)
- Your passport/travel document
- Your police registration certificate
- Your birth certificate
- Evidence of your living situation (for example a gas/electric bill)
After the interview
Once you have left the interview, you will have five days to send in a statement about the interview and with your closing points on your case. This is a chance to include anything you forgot to say in the interview. You should listen back to your interview when writing this.
Child refugees and asylum seekers
Children accompanying asylum-seeking parents
Dependent children of adult asylum seekers can claim asylum alongside their parent(s). If the child is younger than 12 years old, they won’t need to attend an interview. In this case, the parent can make an application on their behalf, and discuss their cases in their own interview.
Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children can claim asylum in the same way as adults – at a UK port. In most cases, there are volunteers and members of the local authority to help young children request their claim. Unaccompanied children will most often be taken to the national intake unit in Croydon for their application to be processed.
Unaccompanied children need a legal representative and will qualify for Legal Aid.
Children under the age of 12 will most likely not need to attend an interview. Children over the age of 12 must be accompanied by their solicitor and their interviewer must be specifically trained in working with and interviewing children.
The process for unaccompanied children claiming asylum is as follows:
- They attend a ‘welfare interview’ – during this, the child will be given a blank ‘statement of evidence’ to complete with the help of a translator (if necessary) and their solicitor
- They attend their substantive asylum interview (if aged 12 or above)
- The Home Offices decides whether to grant them refugee status
- If their application is refused, they will usually still be granted a form of protective leave called UASC leave
- In the event of a refusal, they will have a right to appeal
Making an asylum appeal
Your claim for asylum may be refused if the Home Office determine that you are not genuine, or that your fear of persecution is not real or is unfounded. You may also be refused because of insufficient evidence – for example if you cannot provide a solid witness testimony/other form of evidence to prove your case is legitimate.
Asylum seekers have the right to appeal. This means that, if you receive a refusal letter on your initial claim, you can challenge this. You must lodge your appeal within 30 calendars of receiving your letter. You should note that these 30 days begin from the date on the letter itself, not on the day you receive/open it.
Making a fresh asylum claim
You can only make a fresh application claim in the UK once your appeal rights have been exhausted. This means you would have to lodge an appeal on your first claim’s refusal before making any fresh claim.
It is also essential that you include new evidence for any fresh asylum application, and that your fresh claim is based on a new situation. For example, if you have returned to your home country and there are further complications which would mean you need to claim asylum on new grounds.
Once your appeal rights are exhausted, you will be required to return to your home country.
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Asylum, in this sense, means safety and sanctuary from danger. The UK, along with most other countries around the world, offers asylum to people who are fleeing danger and persecution.
Asylum is a right, and because of that, it is not ‘applied for’ but ‘claimed’.
In total it takes around 180 to process an asylum claim from start to finish, but this depends on how complex your case is.
For example, claims from certain countries are often processed faster because the British Home Office lists them as dangerous to all life. Syria is one example of this.
If a case is particularly complex it can also take longer than this.
Asylum seekers who do not have a high enough income or savings are entitled to asylum support. This amounts to:
- £37.75 per week per adult
- £3.00 extra per week for pregnant mothers
- £5.00 extra per week for each baby under one year’s old
- £3.00 extra per week for each child between one and three year’s old
‘Political asylum’ is a term which used to describe a form of asylum which means that a person is persecuted because of their political beliefs. For example, this could be if they are a human rights activist living in a dictatorship.
The term ‘political asylum’ has also become synonymous with asylum itself. This has come from when the UK and other countries in Europe gave refuge to citizens of Germany during WW11.
Asylum seekers can live in the accommodation provided and spend their allowance on food and any other essentials.
Currently, they do not have a right to work and they cannot claim public funds, other than that which they are provided with.
An asylum seeker is a person who has made ana initial claim for refuge and is awaiting the results of this.
A refugee is a person who has been granted asylum. As a UK refugee a person can work, study, start a business and access public funds. This is an indefinite status, offering complete protection of that person under human rights laws.