Claiming asylum in the UK is a complex legal process. There are eligibility criteria for who can apply for asylum. You must be eligible and must attend at least one interview with a Home Office immigration officer who will assess your case.
What is an asylum request?
The right to seek asylum in another country was established by the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1951. 146 countries are parties to this convention and are bound by its rules under international law. In the UK, a person has the legal right to seek asylum if they cannot return to their home country for fear of persecution.
The eligibility criteria for submitting a successful asylum application are attached. The asylum application process can be long. After arriving in the United Kingdom it is necessary to submit an initial application for asylum. This should be done on the basis of having left one’s country and being unable to return due to the threat of persecution which has put the person’s life in danger.
After the first asylum application at a border port or airport, a meeting will be held with an immigration officer. This is commonly referred to as “screening”. These meetings take place in person and you are required to bring all relevant documents on behalf of your case.
The Home Office will then decide whether your asylum application can be made. If you receive confirmation that you can make a claim, you will then be required to attend a substantive asylum interview with a social worker.
This interview is your chance to explain the reasons why you are seeking asylum. You have the right to bring an immigration lawyer or solicitor with you to this meeting.
What does it mean to request asylum?
The term “asylum seeker” refers to a person who has left their home country due to persecution and is seeking refuge in another country. They cannot return to their country of origin due to credible danger to their lives.
An asylum seeker has the right to request humanitarian protection in another country. If a person has received this protection or refugee status, they are entitled to specific rights as well as internationally recognized rights.
In the UK, a person who has been granted refugee status can maintain it for up to five years. After this period they will be given the opportunity to extend their leave.
If an asylum application is not accepted, this person is refused asylum. Depending on the case, a person may be forcibly deported from the country or may return to their country of origin independently.
In 2019, nearly 80 million people around the world were displaced from their homes. The UK hosts 1% of the world’s 29.6 million refugees.
Requirements for requesting asylum
There are eligibility requirements linked to successfully claiming asylum in the UK. The main factor is that you must not be able to live anywhere in your home country without fear of persecution.
The UK Government has outlined the categories on which this persecution is based:
- Political opinion
Gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, or other factor that will result in persecution due to your country’s social, political, or religious culture
You must be able to demonstrate that you sought and were denied protection by officials in your country. Furthermore, the persecution must be caused by the authorities or by a group of individuals sanctioned (implicitly or explicitly) by the authorities.
There are circumstances in which your asylum application may be rejected by the Home Office. If you are from another EU country or have traveled through another country on your way to the UK, your application may not be accepted under new rules introduced since Britain left the EU.
What documents are needed for asylum?
There are a number of documents you need to provide if you are making an asylum claim. Each step of the process requires different documents.
For the initial screening interview, you must provide:
- Passports or travel documents
- Police registration certificate
- Proof of identity documents (e.g. ID cards, birth certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, official school documents)
- Any other relevant documents that may help your case
If you are already resident in the UK when you make an asylum claim, you should be prepared to provide proof of your address. This could include:
- Letter from a bank
- Housing benefit documents
- Council tax letter
- Lease or rental agreement
- Utility or house bill
- Alternatively, prove that you are with another person
The documents required for the asylum interview can take different forms.
Your asylum claim may be strengthened if you can produce documentary evidence of your persecution in your home country. Although it can be very difficult to obtain, it is advisable to provide the interviewer with as much evidence as possible.
The following would be useful:
- Arrest warrant
- Political party membership card
- Published newspaper or print article detailing your story or persecution
- Any other evidence to support your claim
It is very important that this evidence is authentic and not falsified in any way. Your immigration lawyer will discuss with you the types of evidence you should submit and support you in the submission process.
What happens during an asylum screening?
The first stage of the process for claiming asylum in the UK begins when you notify border officials that you are trying to register an asylum claim. Depending on whether you do this at the UK border or book your appointment at the asylum reception unit, the process will be different.
In this screening interview, you will be asked to provide biometric information (fingerprints and photographs), some basic information, your immigration status, and whether you have any health or medical needs. It is very important to provide accurate answers to all questions. You should also ask for a copy of the interviewer’s notes at this time.
Some of the questions you may be asked include:
- First name
- Date of birth
- Nationality and country of origin/country of origin
- Ethnic origin, race or ethnic group
- Religious beliefs
- Work or occupation
During this screening interview, you may be asked to provide proof of your details (e.g. a passport, birth certificate, etc.). The border officer will ask you why you are in the UK seeking asylum and the persecution you face in your home country.
It should be noted that the interviewer will not ask in-depth questions about your background at this stage and the interview should last 1-2 hours. The Home Office will use the information you provide at the screening interview to decide whether to grant you a further substantive interview.
From 1 January 2021, the Home Office reserves the right to declare an asylum claim inadmissible if you have passed through another country where you could have claimed asylum after leaving your home country.
After the screening interview, your case will be classified into one of the following categories: non-detained general legal assistance, detained non-suspensive appeal, or unaccompanied minor. The categorization of your asylum claim will impact your case.
What is a substantive interview?
The purpose of the substantive interview is for the applicant to provide the Home Office with evidence as to why they believe they are entitled to international protection. The Home Office official will ask you in-depth questions about your background and the details of the persecution you experienced in your home country.
This interview is one of the most important parts in the asylum application process. It is a long interview, lasting 4 to 6 hours, and you have the right to bring an immigration lawyer or solicitor with you as your representative. If there is a language barrier, you have the right to an interpreter.
Interviews are recorded as normal and it is strongly recommended that you request a copy of the recording and written transcript after the interview.
This interview is likely to be an emotionally challenging process. You can request a break at any time during the interview. The Home Office official understands that the interview may contain elements of traumatic experiences, but they must remain impartial and objective.
Chances are they will question your story and ask for clarification, even if you have already provided it.
How to apply for asylum in the UK
To claim asylum in the UK, you must contact border officials at any UK port and say that you wish to make an asylum claim. Next, you will be taken for a screening interview. If you already live in the UK and wish to apply for asylum, you should contact the Home Office to book a screening interview.
You must have left your home country for fear of persecution that falls into one of the classes protected by international law.
If the Home Office believes your case is valid, you may be referred for an in-depth interview. During this interview you will be asked in-depth questions about why you left your home country and why you are seeking asylum in the UK.
After this interview you will be given a decision on your case. In some circumstances it is possible to appeal a negative decision.
If you are provided with a positive decision, you will be granted permission to remain with a specific immigration status.
Do you need to ask for asylum in the first safe country?
According to the Refugee Convention, it is not necessary to apply for asylum in the first country where the asylum seeker arrives.
However, according to the Dublin Regulation (an EU law), a person seeking asylum can only do so in a European Union country. This is usually the first EU country a person arrives in. The aim of the law was that only one asylum application should be made in a member state that complies with the Dublin Regulation.
The UK was legally obliged to remain bound by this legislation until 31 December 2020. From 1 January 2021, the Dublin Regulation no longer applies in the UK. This means that the Home Office can deem an asylum request inadmissible if it is demonstrated that the applicant arrived and then left a third country deemed safe for the purposes of the asylum request.
However, as a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, the UK must still uphold its commitment to protect refugees.
What is the family reunification program?
If you have been granted refugee or humanitarian protection status in the UK and have immediate family members living in your home country, there is a legal route to bring them to the UK.
Under the Family Reunification Programme, a member of your family (including your spouse or legally married civil partner and any dependents under the age of 18). Other family members may be included for compassionate reasons.
What is the Gateway Security Program?
In addition to the normal asylum procedure, the Gateway Protection Programme, run by the Home Office in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is designed to resettle particularly vulnerable refugees.
The program allows up to 750 refugees to settle in the UK each year. Applications for resettlement under this program are made through the UNHCR who then refers the matter to the Home Office. Each application will be assessed on its individual merits, including refugee status, need for resettlement, security risks, family status, health and the health of dependents. Under the Gateway Protection Programme, refugees are immediately granted permanent residency in the UK.
What is discretionary leave to remain?
Discretionary leave to remain refers to a type of leave that the Home Office may choose to apply to an individual’s asylum case. This type of leave is only granted in exceptional circumstances.
If an applicant can demonstrate that there are extraordinarily compelling or “exceptional compassionate” circumstances, they may be advised that they can remain in the UK. This is one of the rarest forms of residence permit.
Previous year more than half a million people were unable to enter or remain in the UK. But this time we will not let this happen, because UK has a proud tradition of providing a place of safety for authentic refugees. However, we are determined to refuse protection to those who do not need it, and will take steps to remove those who are found to have made false claims.
UK holds to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents the relevant authorities from sending anyone to a country where there is a risk of that they will be under torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
We will assist you in such a way:
Our experts will advise you on how to make a claim for asylum in the UK and deal with the Home Office on your behalf.
When you are required to give a screening interview we will accompany you to the Home Office where you will be asked common questions regarding to your claim for asylum.
Subsequent to your interview the Home Office will provide you with suitable accommodation and monies for your daily living costs should you require the same until your case has been decided.
We will represent you if your case goes to an oral hearing at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, where the Appeals are decided by one or more Immigration Judges, sitting at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT)
Therefore it is crucial that you have legal representation during your claim for asylum as the Home Office has the tendency to be unduly harsh to asylum seekers and deny them their entitlements.
However the Home Office may decide to detain you and put your case on the Fast Track route if they think that they can decide your case quickly
We ensure that our clients are treated fairly and provide advice and re-assurance as we understand that it can be a difficult time for them during the asylum process.
Once the initial interview has been concluded you will then be required to attend a substantive interview, which may take several hours. We can accompany you during this interview, as the Home Office can in some instances be aggressive in their questioning, at which point we can intervene.
Following the lengthy interview the Home office will then make a decision if your claim for asylum has been successful. If your claim is refused you will be entitled to appeal against that decision which has to be done urgently
The appeal will be heard before an Immigration Judge at court where we will represent you and make submissions that the Home office made the wrong decision and that your appeal should be allowed
The Immigration Judge can allow your claim for asylum, which the Home Office have to honour.