What is the process for people to apply for asylum in the UK?

Some 109,641 people had been waiting more than six months for a decision on their asylum application at the end of 2022. Credit: PA

By Lewis Denison, ITV News Westminster Producer

Asylum applications in 2022 were at their highest level since the influx in 2002 caused by unrest in Afghanistan and Iraq.

The latest Home Office figures have shown a huge 89,398 people applied for asylum in UK last year and 160,919 people were waiting for an initial decision on their application at the end of 2022.

In a bid to cut the backlog, the government has decided thousands of asylum seekers will be eligible to fill out a questionnaire to speed up the time-consuming process.

But what is the process for asylum seekers hoping to resettle in the UK?

Applying for asylum in the UK:

A person must be physically in the UK in order to claim asylum there. It is not possible to apply for asylum from outside the UK and there is no option to obtain a visa with the purpose of seeking asylum.

So there is a great conundrum for individuals who do not have visa-free travel to the UK. They have two options:

  • Arrive on a visa for some other purpose, such as tourism or study, which could be difficult to obtain;

  • Break the law by entering the UK on a small boat, by stowing away in the back of a lorry, or using false documents.

Claiming asylum is not illegal but entering or remaining in the UK without the required permission has been an offence for many years.

And to be eligible, a person must have left their home country and be unable to go back for fear of persecution.

Once someone is in the UK, they should apply as soon as possible. The government says the longer people wait, the more likely they are to be rejected.

The first stage of applying involves having a 'screening' meeting with an immigration officer.

After screening the Home Office will decide if the applicant's claim can be considered in the UK.

People who apply for asylum immediately upon entering the UK will have their screening by an immigration officer at the border.

Those who apply after arriving must contact the government's asylum intake unit and book an appointment.

Screening involves being photographed, having fingerprints taken and questions to confirm who you are and where you’re from.

Claims may not be considered for people from an EU country or if they have a connection to a safe third country where they could claim asylum.

If it is assessed that someone's application can be considered, they will be invited for an asylum interview with a caseworker.

The government says it should take six months for a decision following an interview however the latest figures show it often takes longer.

There were 109,641 waiting more than six months for an initial decision stood at the end of 2022, up 77% year-on-year from 61,864.

To speed up the process, around 12,000 people from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen, who have applied for asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision, will be able to fill out a questionnaire instead of being interviewed.

They will be sent a 10-page questionnaire to fill out, containing about 40 questions which may not all apply to them, and asked to return it within an initial 20 working days before being offered an extension.

Some campaigners criticised the plans as “clumsy” amid reports that asylum seekers will be told to fill out the form in English.

Officials insisted the move was not akin to a so-called asylum amnesty and stressed thorough security checks would still be carried out.

Applicants could still be called for an interview and any who do not provide the required information and evidence could have their claim rejected.

Those granted asylum will be allowed to work and would then be expected to find their own accommodation.

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