The right to claim asylum in another country is one that was established by the United Nations Refugee Convention in 1951. 146 countries agreed to this convention and are bound to its regulations under international law. In the UK, a person has the legal right to claim asylum if they cannot return to their home country for fear of persecution.
There are eligibility criteria attached in order to make a successful claim for asylum. The asylum claim process can be lengthy. Following arrival in the UK, an initial asylum application must be made. This should be made on the basis of having left one’s country with the inability to return due to the threat of persecution which has endangered the person’s life.
Following the initial application for asylum at a border port or airport, a meeting with an immigration officer will be held. This is commonly referred to as ‘screening.’ These meetings are held in-person and you are required to bring any relevant documents with you on behalf of your case.
The Home Office will then make a decision on whether your asylum claim can be submitted. If you receive confirmation that you can make a claim, you will subsequently be required to attend a substantive asylum interview with a caseworker.
This interview is your opportunity to explain the reasons why you are claiming asylum. You are entitled to bring an immigration lawyer or solicitor with you to this meeting.
You will receive a decision on your application within approximately 6 months from the date of this appointment. In the meantime, you will likely not be allowed to work while your claim is being processed. Under certain circumstances, you may be detained while you are waiting. If your application is unsuccessful, you may have the right to appeal.
WHAT IS AN ‘ASYLUM SEEKER’
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 are unable to return to their country of origin due to a credible danger to their life.
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-recognised rights.
In the UK, a person who has been granted refugee status can hold this for up to five years. They will be given the opportunity to extend their leave after this time.
If an asylum application is not accepted, this person has a refused asylum claim. Depending on the case, a person may be forcibly deported from the country or they may return to their country of origin independently.
ASYLUM CLAIM REQUIREMENTS
There are eligibility requirements attached to successfully claiming asylum in the UK. The primary factor is that you must be unable to live in any area of your country of origin without fear of persecution.
The UK government has outlined the categories that this persecution is based on:
- Political opinion
- Gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or another factor that will result in persecution because of the social, political, or religious culture in your country
You must be able to show that you sought, and were denied protection from officials in your own country. Further, the persecution must be caused by the authorities or a group of individuals sanctioned (implicitly or explicitly) by the authorities.
There are circumstances under which your asylum claim may be denied by the Home Office. If you are coming from another EU country, or you have travelled through another country on the way to the UK, your claim may not be accepted under new rules that were introduced since Britain left the EU.
REGISTERING AN ASYLUM CLAIM
It is important that you register your asylum claim as soon as you arrive in the UK in order to start the asylum application process. Failure to do this immediately on arrival at a UK border could result in a denied application. The Home Office may assert that you are not in danger of persecution if you do not make your claim on arrival.
If you arrive in the UK and notify Border Force officials that you wish to apply for asylum protection, you will be directed to your screening interview with an immigration officer.
During this time, officials will take a record of your photograph and fingerprints and discuss with you why you are claiming asylum.
If you are living in the UK and you become eligible to seek asylum, you should contact the asylum intake unit to schedule a screening interview with an immigration official.
This process will register your asylum claim and following this, your case will be taken under review by the Home Office. If successful, you will be invited to an asylum substantive interview.
WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE NEEDED FOR ASYLUM?
There are a number of documents that you must provide if you are submitting an asylum claim. Each stage of the process requires different documents.
For the initial screening interview, you should provide:
- Passports or travel documents
- Police registration certificate
- Proof of identity documents (e.g., identity cards, birth certificates, marriage or divorce certificates, official school records)
- Any other relevant documents that may help your case
If you are already resident in the UK when making an asylum claim, you should be prepared to provide proof of address. This could include:
- Letter from a bank
- Housing benefit documents
- Council tax letter
- Lease or tenancy agreement
- Utility or household bill
- Alternatively, proof that you are staying with another person
The documents required for the substantive asylum interview can take different forms.
Your claim for asylum may be strengthened if you can produce documentary evidence of your persecution in your country of origin. While this might be very difficult to obtain, it is recommended to provide your interviewer with as much evidence as possible.
The following would be beneficial:
- Arrest warrant
- Political party membership card
- Published newspaper or media article detailing your story or persecution
- Any other evidence to support your claim
It is very important that this evidence is genuine and not falsified in any way. Your immigration lawyer will discuss with you the types of evidence you should submit and will support you with the submission process.