The First part of the Asylum Process:
Asylum is a human right available to all people across the world. People can claim asylum if they are fleeing war or persecution. People can ask for asylum in Britain when they arrive or when they realize it would be dangerous to return to their own country.
The Home Office deals with all applications for asylum and is responsible for making decisions on all asylum cases. All claims for asylum go through a central office, Lunar House in Croydon, London.
When people arrive at a port and ask for asylum, the process will starts with a ‘screening’ interview, conducted by an immigration officer. This will be followed by an Asylum Interview with a Home Office caseworker. At the Asylum Interview people have the opportunity to present documents and evidence. If the caseworker believes the person’s case has validity then the person will be accepted as an asylum seeker. If the person has funds, they have to use their own funds to support themselves.
An asylum seeker without funds can ask at Luna House for help with accommodation and support whilst their case is being processed. From Lunar House people are dispersed to one of 5 Initial Accommodation Centres (IAC) across the country. There are IAC in Cardiff, Liverpool, Birmingham, Glasgow and Wakefield.
In 2012 the Government awarded a 5-year contract, with the option of a two-year extension, to Serco and G4S to provide accommodation, dispersal housing and transportation to accommodation. This contract is called the COMPASS – Commercial and Operating Managers Procuring Asylum Support – contract. In Yorkshire, Humberside and the North East G4S operate the contract and run two Initial Accommodation Centres, one in Birmingham and one in Wakefield. In 2017 the two-year extension was approved.
Asylum seekers stay at IAC for about 21 days whilst the legalities of the cases are being prepared for a Substantive Interview with the Home Office. If it is believed that the asylum seeker potentially has a valid claim, they are dispersed to G4S obtained housing and have to wait to be called for the Substantive Interview. Asylum seekers stay in this housing until a decision on the claim is made. Following the Substantive Interview a decision may take a few weeks or several months, or in some cases longer.
Whilst asylum seekers are in an IAC they do not receive cash benefits. When asylum seekers are dispersed to G4S sourced housing, the basic overheads are paid. Asylum seekers receive National Asylum Seekers Support (NASS) of around £36 per week for food, toiletries, clothes and general living expenses. This equates to approximately £5 per day. Asylum seekers cannot open bank accounts; therefore, this benefit is currently paid through the Post Office.
When asylum seekers receive a positive decision on their case they have 28 days to leave the NASS accommodation. During that time they have to apply for a national insurance number, register for employment and find private accommodation. Completing all of these tasks in the timeframe is extremely challenging – especially if you have limited English and no deposit for accommodation.
If asylum seekers receive a negative decision they have to apply to the Home Office within 3 days for an appeal against the decision. They can also apply for a continuation of support. However, there are many challenges and difficulties with this process and rejected asylum seekers often need help and support through the process.
Compiled by L Fielding, Wakefield City of Sanctuary January 2017