Duncan Lewis


Asylum, Detention/ Fast Track

Managed Migration, Public Law

Who may be given asylum in the UK?

Date: (17 February 2012)    |    

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Duncan Lewis:There are many reasons why someone may wish to claim asylum in the UK, and all applications are carefully considered on their individual merits, with a dedicated caseworker assigned to each applicant to help them through the process and explain what is going on at each stage.

The definition of a refugee has been laid out in the 1951 Convention on the Status of Refugees, and essentially, if anyone wants to claim asylum in the UK, he or she needs to be able to satisfy the criteria. They have to have what is considered a well-founded fear that in their own country they will be liable to persecution on the grounds of religion, political opinion, nationality, race or membership of a social group. Asylum seekers must be able to convince the Home Office that their account is correct and that they are in reasonable risk of serious harm happening to them if they return to their own country, rather than just the possibility of being harassed and intimidated in a minor way. If the Home Office is not convinced of this, the application will fail and the applicant returned home. However, there is the right to appeal against the decision before an adjudicator, and this appeal can be made if the caseworker believes it has a reasonable chance of success.

The burden of proof is entirely on the applicant to convince the immigration authorities that there is a real likelihood of serious harm coming to them should they return home, although the level of proof required is fairly low, merely being able to show convincingly that the risk is there.

A claim can also be made under the European Convention of Human Rights, which deals with issues of torture and degrading treatment in general as well as issues of privacy and family life. The rights of the applicant will be assessed by the ECHR along with their claim for asylum. These two have a significant overlap, and it is usually the case that a failed application under ECHR will entail a similar failure under the 1951 Convention.

Asylum seekers who are successful with their application are under normal circumstances granted leave to remain in the UK for five years. When the five years have expired, the individual case will be reviewed and at that point, the asylum applicant may be given leave to remain indefinitely. This gives the asylum seeker the same essential benefits as a UK citizen in regards to the rights to live, study, work and claim benefits in the UK.

If asylum seekers, having been given leave to remain in the UK, return to their own country and live there for more than two years or leave the UK for more than two years, their refugee status in the UK may be rescinded. This also applies if they commit a serious criminal offence in the UK after attaining refugee status.

Duncan Lewis and other immigration solicitors will be able to supply more information on this and other matters.