What is Asylum?
According to Oxford Dictionary definition asylum is ‘protection that a government gives to people who have left their own country, usually because they were in danger for political reasons’.
If someone is at risk of being persecuted in their own country, they may ask for asylum in the UK. When someone is ‘granted asylum’ it means they were given permission to remain in the UK because of that risk of persecution.
When someone is waiting for a decision on their asylum claim they are called ‘asylum seekers’. When their permission was granted they become ‘refugees’.
Sometimes the application for asylum may be refused but a person may be granted what is known as ‘humanitarian protection’ or ‘discretionary leave’.
How to Qualify for Asylum?
To be granted asylum, a person will need to prove 4 elements of their claim. In particular, they need to show that:
- owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted;
- for reasons of:
- membership of a particular social group or
- political opinion
- is outside the country of his nationality; and
- is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country;
Well-founded Fear of Persecution
To prove this element, a person will need to meet subjective and objective tests.
The subjective test can be met by showing that a person has a genuine fear of being persecuted. This can be done by
the way of testimony and can be further supported by such documents as passports or identity cards, political party membership cards, arrest warrants, photographs, and medical reports etc. Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture is an organisation providing medical and social care, practical assistance and therapy to survivors of torture. If the applicant is already seeing a doctor or consultant, he may be able to provide a report.
The objective test is about the current situation in asylum seeker’s country, which should be obtained from independent sources, from organisations such as Amnesty International and the US Department of State, newspaper or Internet articles.
Reasons for Claiming Asylum
Claiming asylum for reasons of race includes colour, descent, or membership of a particular ethnic group. However, belonging to a certain racial group is not normally enough to succeed in an asylum claim.
The concept of religion includes holding of theistic, non-theistic and atheistic beliefs. It also includes the participation in, or abstention from, formal worship in private or in public, either alone or in community with others. The definition includes other religious acts or expressions of views or forms of personal or communal conduct based on or mandated by any religious belief.
The term “nationality” includes citizenship, membership of an ethnic or linguistic group. The co-existence of two or more national (ethnic, linguistic) groups may create situations of conflict and also situations of persecution or danger of persecution. For this reason, persecution for reasons of nationality may overlap.
membership of a particular social group
A ‘particular social group’ normally comprises persons of similar background, habits or social status. In the majority of cases, membership of a particular social group will not normally be enough for a successful asylum claim. Very often, a claimant can succeed when combining at least two reasons for claiming asylum.
If a person’s political opinion is different from those of the Government, it is not in itself a ground for claiming refugee status. A claimant needs to show that because of holding his political opinion he has a fear of persecution.
The Procedure for Claiming Asylum
- APPOINTMENT: This can be done either on arrival or when a person is already in the UK. If a person wants to apply when already in the UK, they need to call to book an appointment.
- SCREENING INTERVIEW: Then a person will be invited for a screening interview. At this interview the Home Office will gather personal information of an applicant will make a decision as to whether to detain this person.
- Asylum Interview. After screening interview a person will be invited for an asylum interview. At this interview they will need to provide full details of their asylum claim, supporting it by documents, where possible.
- The decision. The decision usually arrives by post within 6 months. If the application is refused, the applicant has a right to appeal to the First-Tier Tribunal within 14 days (7 days if detained).
Can Refugees Work, Study or Claim Benefits in the UK?
If the asylum claim is successful, the asylum seeker will officially change their status to refugees. They will be allowed to work, study and claim benefits in the UK.
A refugee will get a Biometric Residence Permit. This document will confirm their refugee status and the fact that they are allowed to work in the UK. This document should also be accepted by employers, landlords, banks and local authorities.
Can Refugees’ Family Members Join Them in the UK?
Yes, they can. Refugees may apply for a family reunion for family members. If they got married after the application was granted, standard rules for spouses of British citizens will apply.