Some people believe that it’s too easy to get into the UK, but the process for claiming asylum in this country can, in fact, be long, stressful and complex. So how exactly does the UK system work?
Anyone who has fled his or her country to the UK and wants to stay here must apply for asylum, in other words, formal protection as a refugee.
They must present themselves at their port of entry to an immigration officer, or travel to the Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon at their own expense for an asylum screening meeting, to register a formal application for asylum to the Home Office. They are photographed and finger-printed, and get an application registration card.
This is followed by a compulsory asylum interview with a case worker, where they are asked to explain in detail how they have been persecuted in their home country and why they are afraid to go back, providing any evidence supporting their claims. This can be challenging, as many have left home under pressure without, for example, passports, identification and travel documents.
Asylum seekers believed to have legitimate claims are put into different kinds of accommodation provided by the Home Office, including private housing and temporary accommodation like hotels or B&Bs. They can be sent anywhere in the UK and cannot choose where to live.
Since 2000, thousands have been detained in 13 special immigration centres run by the Government’s HM Prison Service and their cases reviewed on a ‘fast track’ basis (about two weeks). The pressure this Detained Fast Track system puts on applicants has been strongly criticised by the High Court and is felt to be inhumane by many refugee charities, although at the end of 2014, the number in detention had fallen to 1,698, this had increased again by March 2016 to 2,925.
Asylum seekers not in detention are required to report on a regular basis to one of 15 centres across the UK. If they fail to do this, their claim can be dismissed.
People awaiting an asylum decision are not allowed to work, but if their claim takes more than a year, can apply to do so from the shortage occupation list. They are housed in special accommodation and given a modest living allowance in cash or vouchers, pitched well under income support.
This is currently set at £37.75, an 80p rise from the previous figure of £36.95 per person per week to cover food, clothing and toiletries. That makes £5.39 a day per person.
Decisions are made by civil servants in the Home Office or by immigration judges.
Asylum seekers can expect one of two outcomes:
Asylum seekers can appeal against a refusal if they do so within 14 days, at a cost of £80 upwards.
Based on our work, we think that the current system for claiming asylum leaves much to be desired: