A sure-fire way to ensure the media heat moves off any political failures by the British government, such as a lack of progress when it comes to Brexit negotiations and an appalling response to the Coronavirus pandemic, is to shift the public’s focus onto migrants. Suddenly this summer, the papers were full of stories involving British shores being "swamped" by ‘illegal’ migrants.
Contrary to the rhetoric espoused continuously by the right-wing press, it is perfectly legal to travel across the English Channel and seek asylum (although people smuggling is illegal).
Britain is home to a minuscule 1% of the world’s 29.6 million refugees, and asylum seekers make up a tiny proportion of UK migrants. Most people come to Britain for work, study, or family life.
There is significant confusion regarding claiming asylum in the UK. This article answers some of the questions our immigration lawyers are commonly asked.
Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention states that:
The Contracting States shall not impose penalties, on account of their illegal entry or presence, on refugees who, coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened in the sense of article 1, enter or are present in their territory without authorization, provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence.
There is no rule in international law that people fleeing persecution must claim asylum in the first safe country they enter. In 1999 Lord Justice Simon Brown ruled in R v Uxbridge Magistrates Court (ex parte Adimi)  Imm AR 560 that "some element of choice is indeed open to refugees as to where they may properly claim asylum". The judge stated that "any merely short-term stopover en route" to another country should not forfeit the individual’s right to claim refugee status elsewhere.
Most people seeking asylum in the UK do so because they speak English and/or have family members already in the country.
A screening interview will take place between one to five days after you arrive in the UK. It usually be conducted at Lunar House in Croydon. You should take your passport as proof of identity and if possible, proof of your accommodation, for example, a utility bill.
At the interview, your biometric information (fingerprints and a photograph) will be collected and you will be issued with an Application Registration Card.
The immigration officer at the screening interview will ask several questions, including:
The second interview you must attend if you are claiming asylum in the UK is called a substantive interview. It is a face to face interview, and you will be asked questions about why you fled your home country and your grounds for seeking asylum in Britain. If you cannot speak sufficient English, an interpreter will be provided via video link.
Be prepared for this interview to be intense. Take advantage of any breaks that are offered. If you feel tired, confused, or emotional, it is best to ask for a break to collect yourself. You may have an immigration solicitor with you, but they may only intervene if there is a risk of a misunderstanding between you and the caseworker occurring.
An immigration solicitor can provide invaluable help in preparing for the substantive interview. You will be asked hundreds of questions, and the caseworker will be looking for any inconsistencies. An immigration law specialist can conduct mock interviews with you, ensuring you feel confident and sure of your answers when you finally meet with your caseworker.
Once the interview is over, you and your solicitor will receive a written record. Your solicitor will review the document and quickly contact the Home Office if any mistakes are present. There is a five-day window for you to submit any new evidence that you believe may assist in your claim for asylum in the UK.
You should receive a decision within six months of claiming asylum. If your claim is successful, you will be granted five years’ refugee status.
Based in Birmingham and London, UK Migration Lawyers is one of Britain’s premier immigration law firms. Please phone our office on 0121 777 7715 to make an appointment with one of our immigration Solicitors.