Claiming Asylum in the UK

Refugee Law and Humanitarian Protection

The UK government has a very generous hospitality towards refugees who flee their country of origin due to persecution or death threats by accepting and offering them protection in the UK. This is due to their obligation under the 1951 United Nations Convention relating to status of refugees, the Refugee Convention and Geneva Convention. UK is also bound by European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) which would prevent the UKBA or the Home Office from sending the asylum seeker to their country of origin if there is a real risk that they will be exposed to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

Who are refugees?

It is defined by Article 1(A)(2) of the United Nations Convention

  • as a person who has flee their country of origin or unwilling or unable to return to their country of origin due to the fact that they suffered persecution (and / or)
  • as a person without any nationality or stateless, who is outside their  former habitual residence and that they are unwilling or unable to return to their former habitual residence due to the fact that they have suffered persecution.

The fear must be a well founded fear of persecution

It is important that the person is able to establish that they have a genuine fear of persecution or a well founded fear of persecution in their country of origin or former habitual residence. The standard of proof that is applied to establish this fact is of a “reasonable degree of likelihood”, which is lower that the civil standard of the balance of probabilities. It is sometimes referred to as “substantial grounds for believing” or “real risk”.

There is no protection in their country of origin

The applicant must be able to establish that they were not given or able to seek protection from the authorities in their country of origin or former habitual residence. Hence they are left with no alternate choice other than seeking international protection. The authorities in their country of origin could be the state, the government, the military or the police which has failed them.

The fear of persecution to be one of conventional reason

The fear of persecution must be one of the conventional reasons which are race, religion, nationality, membership of social group or political opinion.

What would amount to persecution?

Any acts which would violate a person’s basic human right i.e.

  • any form of oppression, harassment, maltreatment;
  • any act of physical or mental violence, including an act of sexual violence;
  • a legal, administrative, police or judicial measure which in itself is discriminatory or which is implemented in a discriminatory manner;
  • prosecution or punishment, which is disproportionate or discriminatory;
  • denial of judicial redress resulting in a disproportionate or discriminatory punishment;
  • prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service in a conflict, where performing military service would include acts of crimes.

Persecution could include prosecution when an individual is likely to be denied with a fair trial or where there is evidence that the prosecution is being conducted for political reasons.

Who can commit the act of persecution?

  • it could be the government of their country;
  • any party or organization controlling the government or a substantial part of the territory of the government;
  • serious harm committed by others and the authorities are unwilling to give effective protection, because they support the actions of the private persons concerned;
  • The applicant also could show that the government tolerates their oppressive acts or turns a blind eye to the individual or that the government has other priorities and is unable to offer protection from the persecution.

Fear of persecution on grounds of race

Race is interpreted to include all persons of identifiable ethnicity and that the concept of race shall in particular include considerations of colour, descent or membership of a particular ethnic group.

Fear of persecution on grounds of religion

Religion is interpreted to include the holding of theistic, non-theistic beliefs, the participation or non participation from a formal worship in private or in public either alone or in community with others, any religious acts or expression of views or forms of personal or communal conduct based on or mandated by any religious belief.

Fear of persecution on grounds of nationality

Nationality is not confined to citizenship or lack thereof but shall in particular include membership of a group determined by its cultural, ethnic, or linguistic identity, common geographical or political origins or its relationship with the population of another state.

Fear of persecution due to the membership of a particular social group

Discrimination is the focal point of determining whether a person is a member of a particular social group. A woman who suffers domestic violence or from genital mutilation or FGM, victims of sexual trafficking and same sex partners are some of the common examples as to who would form part of a particular social group.

Fear of persecution due to their political opinion

Express political opinion is the most familiar Convention reason but it would also include any imputed political opinions of a person. Express political opinion is when you have been involved directly in any political activity against the state by holding any demonstration, distribution of leaflets, giving speeches, organised any activities against them and thereby putting yourself at risk of persecution. Imputed political opinion is when you are not involved in any political activity by yourself. If your family members or relatives or friends or colleagues or peers or associates have been involved in such an activity and as a result of that your life is in danger and you are subjected to persecution.

What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

An asylum seeker is a person who is seeking leave to remain for protection from his country and whose application may be pending at the Home Office for consideration. When an application for asylum is considered favourably by the Home Office, this person is granted leave to remain as a refugee.

How to make an asylum claim in the UK?

Asylum application is only possible as an in country application. In other words you must be in the UK to submit the application personally. Application for asylum at the port of entry to the UK is possible for persons who are outside UK. It would mean that upon arrival to the UK they must claim for asylum at the airport. In all circumstances asylum must be claimed as soon as reasonably practicable and if you fail to do so then you may be denied of any support from NASS.

Asylum applications at Port of Entry in the UK

People who apply for asylum when they arrive in the UK, either at the sea or the airport are termed as port applicants. Port applicants for asylum will be eligible for NASS support if they are able to show that they claimed asylum on arrival. Port applicants can be detained and / placed on the fast track procedure rules.  Where application for asylum is being considered by the Home Office, temporary admission may be granted. Where the applicant is detained but temporary admission is not granted, a bail application can be made. Where the application for asylum is successful, the applicant is granted leave to remain as a refugee in the UK. Where the application for asylum is unsuccessful, the applicant will be removed from the UK back to their country of origin. If you do not qualify for asylum but if the Secretary of State is of the opinion that there are humanitarian or other reasons as to why they should allow you to stay in the United Kingdom, then you would be granted with Humanitarian Protections.

Asylum applications at Asylum Screening Unit at Lunar House, Croydon

Postal applications method is not available for in country applicants for asylum. All applications for asylum must be made in person to the Home Office at Lunar House. If you have any dependants’ family members than they also must be present and included in the asylum application. You have the opportunity to seek legal representation from an Immigration Solicitor who deals with asylum cases and obtain their expert advice and guide before submitting your asylum claim. You may also qualify for Legal Aid.

When you submit your asylum application at Lunar House, you should also take the following:

  • all the supporting documents to substantiate your asylum claim which should be original as photo copies are not accepted;
  • proof of your identity;
  • passport size photographs;
  • evidence of accommodation;
  • any other supporting documents you wish to submit in support of your application.

Child asylum seeker

If you are a child under the age of eighteen please ensure that you are accompanied by an appropriate adult.

The Asylum Application Process:

  • claim asylum in person at Lunar House;
  • screening interview;
  • application for ARC card or SAL ( standard acknowledgement letter);
  • biometric evidence obtained
  • allocation of your individual case worker at Lunar House;
  • first meeting with your case worker;
  • asylum interview one week later ( remember to request for an interpreter if you need one);
  • wait for a decision on your application; ( at present the Secretary of State aims to make a decision by 30 days). During this period you may obtain advice from your case worker in relation to any support for finance, accommodation or your right to work in the UK
  • your asylum decision  if it is successful than you will be granted with refugee status together with your dependants if you have any for a period of 5 years. If it is unsuccessful the you can appeal the Home Office Decision ( please refer to our Immigration Appeal section for more details)
  •  Once all the revenues for appeals had been exhausted then you will have to leave the UK as you would not have any leave to remain in the UK. You can make voluntary return arrangements to your country using the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme. Whilst then you may be subject to reporting conditions. If you fail to comply with the reporting conditions then you may be detained until you are removed.