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8 Claiming Asylum

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1. Introduction

2. Who qualifies for asylum?

3. How do I apply for asylum?

4. What happens when I apply?

5. What can I live on while I am waiting?

If you have no money you can usually claim support while your case is considered. This scheme is run by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS). Children who are applying on their own are dealt with differently - they get support from local councils.

The Home Office may refuse you support if it thinks you have not applied for asylum as soon as you should have. If you are refused support for this reason, you will not be able to appeal against the decision, but you should get advice as soon as possible.

Applying for support
If you are allowed to claim support, you will have to fill in a long form in English. You should be able to get help with the form wherever you are staying in the UK. You can get this help from organisations that run 'one-stop services'. You can get their details from the Home Office when you get the form, or from any local refugee support agency.

You can apply for accommodation (housing), financial support (money), or both. You will be given support only if you are 'destitute' (have no money). If you have any money or NASS believes you can get some, you will have to live on that before it will give you support.

If you are refused support, or if your support is taken away before your asylum application has been finally decided, you can appeal to the independent asylum support adjudicators. You will be given an appeal form if you are refused support. You can get free legal help to prepare your appeal (see 'Further help') but not to represent you at the hearing. There may be a legal representative who can help you free of charge when you go to the hearing.

What you can get
Support will be paid to you in the form of vouchers, which you can exchange for cash at a post office. But if you or someone in your household has medical or other special needs which cost more than you can afford, you should also claim for these costs.

Where you will be housed
If you are granted support and need somewhere to live, you will first get emergency housing, usually in a hostel in London or Kent (south of London). You will then be sent ('dispersed') to another part of the country, unless you have a good reason to stay in London - for example if you need special care because you have been tortured. Having close relatives in London won't generally be a good enough reason.

If you are sent somewhere else, you won't have a choice of where you go. Each part of the country has a 'one-stop service' that should be able to give you advice and help, and you should be put in touch with it.

If you don't want to be dispersed, you will probably only be able to get support, and not accommodation. You'll have to find somewhere to stay yourself (with friends, for example).

When support stops
Your support can end in the following ways:

  • If you are recognised as a refugee (granted asylum), given humanitarian protection or given discretionary leave (see 'What will be the outcome of my claim?'), you will have 28 days to move out of your emergency accommodation and find other support. The one-stop service or other local advice agency will help you with that.
  • If your asylum application is refused, you will be given time to lodge an appeal. You will carry on getting support until your appeal finishes, plus 21 days after that.
  • If you leave or damage the accommodation you have been given, or if NASS believes you have other money, you will no longer get support.

'Hard cases'
Sometimes it may not be possible for you to return home, even after your appeal has been refused. This may happen if there are no flights to the area so there is no way of returning you, or if there is a war there and the Home Office doesn't think you should return for the time being. If this happens you should be allowed to stay for a time, but because your case has ended you will not be able to claim support. You can apply for some 'discretionary' help from NASS instead. You may be told you have to do some community work to receive this support.

If your household includes children, you can get support from your local council. However, this may be stopped if the Home Office thinks you are not helping with arrangements to send you back to your country, for example by not making a proper application for a passport from your embassy. Otherwise, you may get help only if you have special medical needs - if you do, your local council should help with these costs.

6. What rights do I have while I'm waiting?

7. Where can I get help with my claim?

8. What will be the outcome of my claim?

9. What if my claim is refused?

10. What happens if my appeal fails?

11. Further help

12. About this leaflet

This leaflet was written in association with the Immigration Law Practitioners Association and Mick Chatwin, a barrister and solicitor specialising in immigration law.

Leaflet version: April 2019


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