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UK Asylum System

Applying For Asylum In The UK

When you apply for asylum in the United Kingdom (UK), you are asking the UK Home Office to recognise you as a refugee. The definition of a refugee comes from a piece of international law called the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. The UK government will decide if you qualify for protection as a refugee or not. To qualify as a refugee the UK Government must think that you have a reason to fear persecution in your country because of your race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.  Alternatively, you may have other humanitarian or compelling reasons why you need to stay in the UK, the denial of which may violate your human rights under the European Convention on Human Rights. Your legal representative should be able to tell you whether this applies to you. Asylum and human rights laws are complex. It is vital that you get good legal advice and representation. For more information about legal advice and representation, see page 5 of this leaflet. When you apply for asylum, the authorities will refer to you as an ‘asylum seeker’. If you are under 18, and are applying for asylum on your own, you will normally be put in touch with social services or a refugee agency.

Who deals with asylum applications?

UK Visas and Immigration is a division of the Home Office responsible for the United Kingdom's visa system. It was formed in 2013 from the section of the UK Border Agency that had administered the visa system.

How do I apply for asylum?

 It is important that you apply for asylum as soon as you enter the UK and that you seek legal advice as soon as possible.

 You can apply for asylum

  • to the immigration officer on arrival at the port of entry, for example, at an airport or seaport or 

  • at the UK Border Agency office in Croydon after you have entered the UK. You may, for example, have entered the country illegally or legally on a student, visitor or business visa. The Croydon Asylum Screening Unit is based at Lunar House, 40 Wellesley Road, Croydon CR9 2BY

  • Under very exceptional circumstances it may be possible to have your asylum application recorded and screened at a Local Enforcement Office, or by post. This may apply to unaccompanied children and those whose condition is such that they cannot reasonably be expected to travel to Croydon. Contact a local refugee agency to find out if this may apply to you.

What happens when I apply for asylum?

The UKBA processes asylum applications in different ways. Some asylum applications are dealt with very quickly. The UKBA will decide how to deal with your application after the first interview which is called the screening interview. An interpreter will be provided should you need one. You can request a female or male interpreter if you prefer this.

What happens at the screening interview?

The purpose of this interview is for the UKBA to ask basic questions about your personal details and health, how you arrived in the UK and the details of any illegal activity you have taken part in. They will ask you about your reasons for coming to the UK and why you cannot return to your country of origin but should not ask you detailed questions about why you are applying for asylum. Much of the information you submit in your screening interview will be requested again at your asylum interview and, if that information does not match, you will be expected to explain why. This interview can take up to 10 hours in some cases.

Personal details and documentation

 Any dependants for example your partner or children should accompany you to the interview so that their details are included in your application. The interview can last a long time and so you should bring food and drinks with you if possible.

The UKBA will check if you have a valid document and with your name and nationality written on it, and which you used to enter the UK. This could be a passport or other identity document. If you don’t have a valid identity document you should explain in as much detail as possible why you don’t have one.

During the screening interview the UKBA will take your fingerprints and a photo of you  which will be put on your Application Registration Card (ARC). All your family members will normally be issued with an ARC. This card proves that you are an asylum seeker. If you apply for financial support you will use this card to collect money on a weekly basis. In some cases, the UKBA will not be able to give you an ARC. Instead, you will receive a Standard Acknowledgment Letter (SAL) which acknowledges your asylum claim.

Most asylum seekers get a letter called IS96. It means that that you have been admitted temporarily to the UK while the authorities are deciding on your asylum application and you will be expected to report regularly to a reporting centre during this time. 

Where you came from

At the screening interview the authorities will decide if another country, not the UK, may be  responsible for considering your asylum application. For example, this may be because you travelled through another country where the UKBA thinks you could have applied for asylum.

Can your application be dealt with quickly?

If the authorities decide that they can deal with your application quickly then your application  may be put through a fast decision procedure. If this is the case, the authorities may move you to the Harmondsworth Removal Centre (if you are a man) or to Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre (if you are a woman) until your asylum case is completely decided. If you are detained in one of these centres then a legal representative should be provided but your asylum application will be determined very quickly. However, not all asylum applicants whose cases are determined very quickly are detained. Certain people are considered unsuitable for the fast decision procedure including pregnant women, disabled people, those with severe mental health problems, victims of torture or trafficking and children. Speak to your legal representative immediately if you think this may apply to you.

In addition, the following is likely to happen at the screening interview:

  •  You should be given the name and telephone details of the UKBA official, called ‘case owner’, who will be responsible for your asylum claim from start to finish. The case owner is responsible for interviewing you and making the decision on your application. The case owner is the main point of contact for you or your representatives.

  • Arrangements to receive legal representation vary. You may be given contact details and a date to see a legal representative or you may be given a list of representatives to contact. 

  • You should be given a copy of your screening interview notes.

  • The authorities should tell you to report for ‘induction’ to receive vital information you need to know about the asylum process and life in the UK.

The UKBA is legally obliged inform you within 15 days about services (for example, financial support and accommodation) to which you may be entitled. They should also give you information about nongovernmental organisations which you can consult for advice and details of other organisations providing legal advice.

What happens at the asylum interview?

After the screening interview, the UKBA will ask you to attend a longer interview to ask you about your reasons for claiming asylum. It is important to try to see a legal representative before the interview. You should also ask for an interpreter to be available at the interview if needed. If you prefer to be interviewed by a female or a male, you can also request this. 

This interview is your most important opportunity to explain why you have come to the UK and cannot return to your country of origin. You should give as much detail about your asylum application as possible. You should submit any additional evidence, for example medical records or newspaper reports relating to what happened in your country. It is very important that any information and evidence that you give is not contradictory and supports your claim. You should include information about family here in the UK or elsewhere in case this affects any future applications they or you make.

Your legal representative is unlikely to attend your asylum interview (For more information about legal advice, see page 5). If no legal representative is present during your interview, you can ask the authorities to tape-record it. You should tell them 24 hours before the interview if you want the interview tape-recorded. If after the interview you think you have missed out any relevant information, you must tell your legal representative as soon as possible. Your legal representative only has five working days after your asylum interview to submit extra information or evidence.

Detention and reporting

The UKBA has the power to detain some asylum seekers at any stage in their asylum application but they must show that your detention is necessary. Very often, the authorities will detain people if they think they can decide on their asylum application quickly or if they think the person will not stay in touch with them. If the authorities decide to detain you, they must tell you in writing why they are detaining you. You may be able to challenge this decision. You should get legal advice to try to negotiate your release. An organisation called Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) or visitors’ groups, who visit people in detention, can give you information about how you can negotiate your release. Please see BID’s website at: or telephone 020 7247 3590.

Most asylum applicants who are not detained are expected to report on a regular basis to a reporting centre. If you have to travel more than three miles to report you can apply for assistance to pay for your travel. 

What happens while I wait for a decision?

You must attend all the interviews that the UKBA ask you to attend. You must complete and return any forms which they give you within the prescribed time limit. Failing to do so may mean that the UKBA will refuse your asylum application because you did not comply with their requirements. It is important that during this time you inform the UKBA if your address changes. You can do so yourself or you can ask your legal representative to do it on your behalf.

What happens if my case is refused?

A majority of asylum applications are refused although some of these applications will later be successful at appeal. If the UKBA refuse your asylum application, you will be able to appeal against the refusal, although some asylum seekers will only be able to appeal once they have left the UK. If there are other reasons why you should be allowed to stay, for example, that making you leave the UK would be in breach of your human rights, these should be put on your appeal. It is important that you contact your legal representative immediately to help you lodge an appeal because you will have to do so within a strict time limit. If your appeal is refused, the UKBA will expect you to leave the country. The authorities may try to remove you forcibly if you don’t go voluntarily.

Making further submissions

If your appeal has been refused, and you have no more appeal rights, you may decide to provide new or additional reasons why you should be allowed to stay in the UK. This is called ‘making a further submission’. It is important that that you seek legal advice about this. Further submissions can only be usually made in person. 

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