When you apply to the UK for protection from persecution in your home country, you are granted a number of asylum seekers rights.
Asylum seekers rights include:
- to be treated fairly and lawfully
- to practise your own religion
- to have your application processed in a fair and accurate way
- accommodation and financial support, if eligible
- legal representation
Asylum seekers rights: To be treated fairly and lawfully
An asylum seeker has the right to be treated fairly, within the law, and without discrimination based on their race, age, religion, gender, sexual orientation, disability or any other factor.
Asylum seekers rights: To practise your own religion
An asylum seeker has the right to practise their religion. In return, asylum seekers are expected to respect the religions and belief systems of other people in the UK.
To have your application for asylum processed in a fair and accurate way
An asylum seeker’s application for asylum in the UK must be processed without prejudice, in accordance with UK immigration legislation and taking into account all information provided.
Asylum seekers rights: Accommodation and financial support
Where an asylum seeker is eligible, they have the right to be provided with asylum support. Asylum support covers:
- financial support of £37.75 per person in your household per week to cover food and clothing, etc. paid onto a debit card called an ASPEN card
- additional financial support for mothers and young children
- a one-off maternity payment if you are due to give birth in 8 weeks’ time or less, or your baby is younger than 6 weeks old
To be eligible for asylum support, you must be homeless or able to prove that you have insufficient money to buy food.
Asylum seekers rights: Healthcare
You have the right to free healthcare while your application for asylum is processed. This healthcare is provided by the National Health Service (NHS).
Asylum seekers rights: Legal representation
Asylum seekers rights include that of legal representation, whether that be a solicitor or an immigration adviser. Services offered include:
- help with completing your asylum application form
- contacting the Home Office on your behalf
- advising you on the process of claiming asylum
- representing you at a tribunal
It may be possible to obtain free legal assistance if you can’t afford to pay.
Asylum seekers rights: Education
In the UK, all children must attend school from 5 years of age. State schools provide free education and, where eligible, free school meals.
The leaving age varies between the countries that makes up the UK:
- In England, all children (up to 18 years old) must take part in some form of education, whether part-time, full-time or in an apprenticeship.
- In Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, children may leave school when they are 16 years old.
As an asylum seeker in the UK, you must make sure that your children attend school.
Asylum seekers rights: Employment
Generally, you will not be allowed to work in the UK while your application for asylum is processed, with two main exceptions.
Where it has taken more than 12 months for your application to be processed, you may apply for permission to work in the UK.
Where you were already in the UK when you applied for asylum and have an existing form of permission to work here, such as a short-term work visa, you may continue to work until that permission runs out.
What responsibilities does an asylum seeker have in the UK?
Accompanying asylum seekers rights are a number of responsibilities during your time in the UK.
You are expected to co-operate fully with the Home Office in your application for asylum, be truthful in all the information you provide and make a full disclosure of all relevant information. Any attempt to deceive or make a fraudulent application for asylum will result in the rejection of your claim, and may possibly lead to deportation or even imprisonment.
After your initial screening interview, you will be assigned a caseworker. You are expected to stay in contact with your caseworker and attend all arranged appointments.
While you are in the UK, you must obey British laws. Any criminal act will lead to the rejection of your claim for asylum, and possibly to prosecution, imprisonment or deportation.
You must maintain your children’s safety and wellbeing, and ensure that they attend school.
If your claim for asylum is denied, including any subsequent appeals, you must leave the UK.
Eligibility to claim for asylum
To be eligible to seek asylum, it must be dangerous for you to remain in your home country, the government or authorities have failed to protect you, and you face persecution on the basis of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or some other factor.
How to apply for asylum
When you arrive in the UK, inform a border official that you wish to claim asylum. If you are already in the UK when you discover the need for asylum, contact the asylum screening centre.
Whether new to the UK or already living here, you will be expected to attend a screening interview. Your biometric information (photograph and fingerprints) will be taken and you will be expected to present your passport or travel documents, and any supporting documents. You will be asked your reasons for seeking asylum in the UK, to confirm your identity, about any medication you are taking, and details of any dependants (partner and children aged under 18). If you wish, you may request that an interpreter be present.
After the screening, you will be told what to do while your application for asylum is processed, an asylum registration card (ARC) will be sent to your address in the UK, and a caseworker will be assigned to your case.
The ARC acts as proof of your identity, gives you access to services, and indicates whether you may work in the UK while awaiting a decision on your claim for asylum.
The next step will be to attend an asylum interview with your caseworker. This is your opportunity to explain the persecution you faced in your home country and why you wish to seek protection in the UK.
You may submit your case in writing before the interview, if you feel this would be helpful.
Your dependants and other family members will not be permitted to attend the interview with you, but you may request that an interpreter and your legal representative accompany you.
You should take your passport or travel documents, ARC and any supporting documents to the interview.
A record will be made of your interview and a copy of this will be given to you at the end.
You may remain in the UK until you have received a decision. This may take up to 6 months, or longer if your case is complicated and further information is required.
Asylum granted? Receiving your decision
There are three main outcomes to an application for asylum in the UK:
- Refugee status: Your application for asylum is successful. You have permission to live in the UK for 5 years on a limited leave to remain basis.
- Permission to remain for humanitarian reasons: Your application for asylum is denied but you are allowed to remain in the UK for humanitarian reasons because it is too dangerous for you to return to your home country. You may live in the UK for 5 years on a limited leave to remain basis.
- Asylum denied: Your application for asylum is unsuccessful. You may be allowed to appeal this decision but if no reason can be found for you to remain, you must leave the UK.
The matters contained in this article are intended to be for general information purposes only. This article does not constitute legal advice, nor is it a complete or authoritative statement of the law, and should not be treated as such. Whilst every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct, no warranty, express or implied, is given as to its accuracy and no liability is accepted for any error or omission. Before acting on any of the information contained herein, expert legal advice should be sought.