By: Simon B
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Seeking asylum in the UK
Refugees and asylum seekers don’t need to prove that they’re entitled to come into the UK under the immigration rules and regulations. They can come into the country and then try to prove to the immigration authorities that they should be allowed to stay.
Refugees are normally people who are without a home because they’ve had to leave their own home because of conflict or natural disaster in their country. Many of the world’s estimated 30 million refugees are nonetheless inside their very own nation, however, some have moved to different international locations, such because the UK, to search for refuge.
The 1951 Geneva Convention says that a refugee is ‘A person who is outside his or her own country of nationality or habitual residence; has a well-founded fear of persecution because of his or her race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group or political opinion; and is unable or unwilling to avail himself or herself of the protection of that country, or to return there, for fear of persecution.’ When people have to leave their own country and come to the UK to seek asylum, they’re allowed to come into the country. Most asylum seekers want to stay until it’s safe to go home, but some may want to stay permanently. Once they’re in the UK, they must apply for refugee status – which means that they have to convince the immigration authorities that they are a refugee as defined by the Geneva Convention.
If they’re granted refugee status, they’re allowed to stay indefinitely or for a set period of time. If the application is refused, they may be deported back to the place they came from. International law on refugees says that they shouldn’t be sent back to a country where they’re at risk of being persecuted and tortured, and the UK has a legal obligation to accept a certain number of asylum seekers.
Asylum seekers have the right to temporary accommodation, food, and a small amount of financial support from the state, as long as they can prove that they’re destitute. A single asylum seeker, aged 25 or older, is entitled to £40.22 per week, which is less than a UK citizen who claims the basic state benefit Income Support. The UK Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 says that asylum seekers who don’t apply to stay in the UK ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after they arrive aren’t eligible for any support, even if they’re destitute.
Asylum seekers aren’t allowed to work to support themselves and their families while their claim is being decided. Anyone arriving here under these circumstances should get advice straight away from a Citizens Advice Bureau or Law Centre or an adviser who is registered with the Office of Immigration Services Commissioner and displays the OISC logo.
You can contact the OISC at 0845-000-0046 or www.oisc.org.uk. Other useful organisations are The Immigration Advisory Service (0207-967- 1200, www.iasuk.org); The Refugee Legal Centre (0207-780-3220, );
The Refugee Council (England 0207- 820-3085, www.refugeecouncil.org.uk; Wales 02920-489-800; and Scotland 0800-085-6087, www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk); and The Northern Ireland Council for Ethnic Minorities (02890-238-645 www.nicem.org.uk). In addition, The Immigration Law Practitioners Association (0207-251-8383 www.ilpa.org.uk) should be able to give you details of solicitors specialising in immigration law.