We have a role in our projects and services to promote the dignity of everyone in our communities, including asylum seekers and people who are subject to ‘immigration control’. The asylum system and its policies present us with unique challenges to enhance the dignity of everyone in our community.
People who arrive in the UK often face overwhelming and complicated barriers to making a new life here. Many policies are designed to make life unbearably difficult. They create fear for people and can make them feel less deserving of dignity than people who were born in the UK. These policies are part of what is called a ‘hostile environment’.
In order to enhance the dignity of people in the asylum process, we must first understand the policies that make it such an undignified system. Below is a Beginner’s Guide to the Asylum Process, which is also available as a PDF download.
An Asylum Seeker is someone who has left their own country and is asking the UK government for protection, because they are afraid of what would happen if they returned.
A Refugee is someone who has been granted ‘Refugee Status’ by the UK Government, which has decided that the person’s application meets all the criteria set out in the 1951 Refugee Convention. This is usually decided through the process of claiming asylum.
The UK provides protection to people in this situation because it signed the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the 1951 Refugee Convention. People are able to claim asylum when they have had to leave their country because of “a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.”
People who arrive in the UK often face overwhelming and complicated barriers to making a new life here. Many policies are designed to make life unbearably difficult. They create fear for people and can make them feel less deserving of dignity than British citizens. These policies are part of what is called a ‘hostile environment’.
Most asylum seekers are not allowed to work. In most cases, people are not allowed to work until they have been granted Refugee Status.
Asylum seekers and many other people who have moved here from another country have no recourse to public funds (NRPF). This means they cannot access most welfare benefits, such as Universal Credit, or the support and services that are conditional on these benefits.
People who do not have anywhere to live and/or money to support themselves while they are waiting for the UK government to decide about their application are considered “destitute”. In these situations, the person is entitled to Asylum Support*, which includes accommodation and basic living expenses.
Asylum seekers have no choice over where they live or who they live with, and can be moved many times during their asylum journey. Most asylum seekers are ‘dispersed’ to local authorities where accommodation is cheaper, like Glasgow and Birmingham. Asylum seekers can be moved to new accommodation many times during their asylum journey.
Basic living expenses are provided by the Home Office. Asylum Support consists of £45 per person, per week.
If asylum seekers are found to have other sources of income they don’t qualify for Asylum Support.
The asylum system is long and complicated. The majority of people wait between 1-3 years for an initial decision on their asylum claim, but in reality the asylum process can take much longer than this. Many people’s asylum claim is initially refused by the Home Office, only for that decision to be overturned at appeal and Refugee Status later granted.
The text and images in this guide were co-produced by experts by experience from Govan Community Project's Food for All Group, with illustration by Marcela Terán (linked to https://liberationworks.co.uk/)