UK Political Asylum: An Introduction
The trends of political asylum application in the UK have varied annually since the turn of the millennium. Most asylum seekers were evident during a noticeable surge that occurred in 2002 with 84,132 applications.
But by 2010, the numbers dwindled to a mere 17,916. Over the subsequent decade, figures showed an upward trajectory, climaxing in 2021, with a notable increase in asylum applicants. By 2022, a total of 81,130 applications neared the high set two decades earlier.
These fluctuations indicate an ever-evolving asylum landscape in the UK, which we will delve into later in this piece.
In the UK, individuals seeking asylum are required to formally apply upon reaching the country. Successful applications lead to these individuals gaining refugee status and some even being granted asylum.
This status is based on their genuine concerns of facing persecution and their inability to find safety in their homeland. This piece aims to clarify the complexities of the UK’s political asylum procedures, outlining each step and potential challenges encountered.
- UK Political Asylum: An Introduction
- UK Laws for Claiming Political Asylum
- Who Is Eligible to Make an Asylum Claim?
- How to Apply for Political Asylum UK
- Essential Documents for Asylum Seekers in the UK
- Asylum Claim Is Made: What Next?
- Fees and Processing Time
- How Can Newcastle Immigration Lawyers Help?
- Frequently Asked Questions
UK Laws for Claiming Political Asylum
The legal framework for political asylum in the UK is based on both domestic and international laws. The cornerstone of asylum law is the 1951 Refugee Convention, which sets out the definition of a refugee and the rights of persons who have a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. The United Kingdom adheres to these international standards and offers protection to persons who meet this definition and are present on its territory.
The recent introduction of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 has brought notable changes to the UK’s immigration and asylum framework, especially for those arriving in the UK after 20 July 2023.
This legislation emphasises the evolving nature of asylum laws and hints at modifications in the requirements and the procedure for seeking asylum. Given these legal shifts, individuals aiming to file an asylum claim should seek guidance from a legal professional to be well-informed about any alterations that could influence their application.
Who Is Eligible to Make an Asylum Claim?
In the UK, eligibility to claim asylum is determined by several criteria based on the principles of human rights and international protection. First and foremost, people who have the right to apply for asylum must demonstrate a genuine risk of harm in their home country due to potential persecution. For those without a specific country of origin, the nation you predominantly reside in is viewed as your homeland. Reasons for your possible persecution can include:
- Ethnic background
- Spiritual beliefs
- Place of origin
- Political stances
- Other personal aspects such as your gender or sexuality, particularly if these factors make you vulnerable in the current environment of your country.
Your previous attempts as an asylum applicant to seek safety or intervention from local authorities without any success is crucial to secure your eligibility for asylum application in the UK.
However, certain circumstances might prevent your asylum application from being reviewed in the UK. These include:
- Your origin from a European Union member state.
- Your existing affiliations with a country labelled ‘safe’ where you could potentially seek protection.
- Your entry into the UK from a country considered ‘secure’ for transit. Here, a ‘secure transit country’ refers to a place where you aren’t a national, wouldn’t be subject to threats or harm, and have no risk of being transferred to a place of danger.
When submitting an asylum request, individuals present in the UK can include their spouse and children (below 18 years of age) as secondary applicants. If the primary applicant’s request is greenlit, these secondary applicants typically receive permission to stay for a matching period. However, direct refugee recognition for these secondary applicants requires separate applications.
How to Apply for Political Asylum UK
To initiate your asylum application in the UK, you must undergo a process known as a ‘screening’, which involves a meeting with an immigration officer to discuss the particulars of your case.
This screening can occur upon arrival at the UK border or within the UK if you become eligible for asylum after your entry into the country.
What will happen during the screening includes the following:
- You will be photographed and fingerprinted.
- An interview will establish your identity and origin.
- Reasons for seeking asylum and any supporting written evidence can be presented.
- Medical information and ongoing medication details for you and dependants must be disclosed.
- You may request a gender-specific interviewer, although this cannot be guaranteed.
If you have just arrived in the UK, here is the process for your asylum application:
- Inform a Border Force officer of your intention to claim asylum.
- An application will be registered, followed by a screening.
- If necessary, request an interpreter.
But if you’re already in the UK, here is the process for your asylum application:
- Contact the asylum intake unit by calling 0300 123 4193 (note the operating hours and potential call charges).
- During an initial callback, basic information will be gathered about you and your family (the reason for asylum will not be queried at this stage).
- Details regarding your housing situation and any COVID-19 related queries will be addressed.
- This call may last up to half an hour.
- There is no requirement to schedule an appointment if you are without accommodation. Simply inform the asylum intake unit to receive direction on the appropriate asylum registration location and operating times.
- Specify if dependents need to be present at any point in your asylum registration or if you require interpreter services.
There are some crucial guidelines for attending your screening appointment in the UK, which are described as follows:
- Due to pandemic precautions, attend your appointment independently or only with dependants also claiming asylum.
- Ensure you bring all necessary documents.
- If unaccompanied dependents (spouse and children under 18) are also seeking asylum, they should be brought along.
- If you arrive without an appointment, a return on an alternative date may be necessary.
- Travel expenses to the asylum intake unit are not provided.
- If your circumstances change prior to your appointment (e.g., accommodation status), inform the appointment service.
Essential Documents for Asylum Seekers in the UK
Ensure you’re prepared for your asylum screening by gathering all necessary documents for yourself and any dependents (such as your partner and children under 18).
Required documents for you and your dependants include:
- Passports and travel documents.
- Identification documents such as ID cards, birth or marriage certificates, or school records.
- Any additional items you believe will support your application.
For those already residing in the UK, you’ll need to provide documents confirming your UK address. Your required documents for this purpose will vary based on your living situation.
If you have your own accommodation, provide documents with your full name and address. Suitable documents include:
- Bank statements
- Housing benefit records
- Council tax notifications
- Tenancy agreements
- Household bills
If you’re a guest in someone else’s home, provide the following documents:
- A recent letter (dated within the last 3 months) from your host, confirming they’ve permitted you to stay.
- Documents displaying your host’s full name and address, like council tax notifications, tenancy agreements, or household bills.
Asylum Claim Is Made: What Next?
Upon submission of your asylum application, the Home Office commences a thorough review to determine its consideration within the UK. A crucial step is the provision of an Asylum Registration Card (ARC), which validates your application and acts as an identification tool, particularly in accessing health and educational services.
In instances where immediate ARC issuance is unattainable, further instructions will be dispatched via an appointment letter.
If there is a need for additional details, you may receive an asylum questionnaire. It’s pivotal to adhere to the stipulated guidelines and deadlines to ensure a smooth progression of your application.
If challenges arise while completing the questionnaire, the Home Office asylum team is available for assistance.
It’s essential to maintain open communication with the Home Office throughout your application process. This includes promptly updating your contact information online and engaging proactively with the appointed caseworker, who will guide you through each stage, including potential asylum interviews and regular ‘reporting events’. Non-compliance with meeting attendance could jeopardise your application.
In circumstances where your application cannot be processed within the UK, alternative pathways may involve relocating to a safe third country.
This decision, guided by various factors, ensures that your asylum claim will be considered without compromising your safety.
Moreover, detention at an immigration removal centre is possible during the decision-making phase. Various factors, such as age, family status, and health conditions, influence detention decisions and potential removals. Rights to appeal against adverse decisions are available, further information will be provided by the Home Office or your caseworker.
Preserving and safely storing your ARC is vital, given its significant role in your asylum journey. For issues concerning the ARC, such as loss or expiration, the Home Office provides online platforms for reporting and resolution.
In the event that you opt to withdraw your asylum claim, communication with the Home Office should be executed promptly through the provided email channel: email@example.com. Remember to keep all communications clear and straightforward to facilitate efficient processing.
Fees and Processing Time
The UK government aims to process asylum claims as quickly as possible to ensure a timely resolution. However, the length of time it takes to reach a decision can vary greatly and depends primarily on the complexity of the individual case.
Certain factors can prolong the processing time. For example, if the evidence submitted has to be additionally checked, it will inevitably take longer for a decision to be taken. Similarly, if an applicant is called in for further interviews or there are personal circumstances, such as a criminal conviction, that require a more thorough examination, the processing time will be longer.
People seeking asylum in the UK can confidently initiate their process without worrying about any associated application fees. The UK government allows individuals to submit their asylum claims free of charge, ensuring that financial constraints do not hinder their pursuit of refuge
Navigating the complicated landscape of political asylum in the UK can often seem daunting, especially in light of recent legislative changes. However, the sanctity and protection it offers politically persecuted people remains a cornerstone of humanitarian engagement. The steps involved in applying for asylum – from understanding the legal requirements to coping with the impact on family life – highlight the importance of expert legal advice.
At Newcastle Immigration Lawyers, we specialise in helping asylum seekers navigate this complex legal situation so they can live safely in the UK. Our services cover the full range of asylum legal requirements: applications, appeals, detentions, bail procedures and family reunion applications, to name but a few. We also help with important but often overlooked aspects such as biometric residence permits, work permit applications and legally flawed preparations and hearings to ensure a holistic approach to your asylum journey. Our lawyers have the knowledge and experience to offer you tailored advice specific to each person’s asylum claim in the UK.
Contact us at +441913038965 for personalised immigration advice and to take a decisive step towards securing your right to political asylum in the UK.
Last modified on October 13th, 2023 at 11:55 am
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It’s advisable to apply for asylum as soon as possible after arriving in the UK. While there is no specific time limit, delay in making an asylum claim can have a negative impact on the credibility of the claim and may result in access to support being denied.
A new policy is proposed to streamline the asylum process by restricting claims to designated ports of entry, imposing time limits on claims, and expediting the removal of those whose claims are denied. The policy also aims to discourage illegal entry by increasing penalties for those involved in people smuggling and by potentially offshoring the processing of asylum claims.
It’s possible to seek asylum in the UK if you have entered on a tourist visa. Guidance for UK immigration staff outlines procedures for managing asylum applications from individuals who have a visa (or electronic visa waiver) to come to the UK, have applied for a UK visa, or have applied for a visa to go to the Republic of Ireland.
Family reunification provisions allow recognised refugees to apply for their immediate family members to join them in the UK. This includes spouses or civil partners and dependent children under the age of 18. To do so, they must meet certain criteria and make the necessary applications.