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[an error occurred while processing this directive][an error occurred while processing this directive] Destination UK: Full coverage
Seeking Asylum
Introduction
Making an
application


Accommodation
and detention


Rights and
benefits

Leave to stay
Appeals and
removals

Making an application

About 1,500 applications for asylum are dealt with every week. The system used to take two years or more to process a claim but the average is now down to between six and nine months, with the aim to reduce it further to four months.

However, new fast-tracking procedures for apparently straightforward cases mean some are supposed to be processed in just seven to 10 days.

Claims for asylum can be made either on entry into the UK - an "in-port" application - or by someone already working, travelling or studying here - an "in country" application.

However, recently introduced changes mean welfare and accommodation support can be withheld from those who do not claim asylum at what the government defines as the "earliest opportunity". This has caused controversy as two-thirds of all applications are made "in country".

A new identity card - called Application Registration Card - is also being phased in for all asylum seekers, which contains a photograph, fingerprint, name, nationality and date of birth. It also has a chip that can be updated with change of address information.

Asylum interview

Once a claim for asylum has been made, an initial interview is often immediately held to take personal details with the aim of certifying the identity of the applicant. Finger prints are taken to prevent fraud and also to stop one person making multiple applications.

Under a new system, the finger prints can be checked against a European database to guard against multiple applications across the EU.

The main interview is then usually held after that or sometimes on the same day - with a government case-worker.

This is an opportunity for the asylum seeker to detail their experiences and give their reasons for needing safe haven.

For those who do not speak English, translators can be present at interviews, as can an observer chosen by the asylum seeker.

Paperwork

Asylum claims can be rejected unless this interview takes place. During the interview any documents that may help prove that the asylum seeker is fleeing persecution can be presented, however they must be translated into English.

Five days grace may be given to present additional documentation. One major problem, say refugee campaigners, is that many asylum applicants have had no choice but to destroy their records in order to protect themselves while fleeing persecution.

A Statement of Evidence form is also sometimes demanded. Again this must be translated into English, as should any documents presented with it.

The complexity of the form is such that refugee pressure groups suggest legal help should be sought when filling it in as an application can be rejected if the paperwork is not correctly submitted.

In the past asylum seekers have been exploited by unscrupulous or incompetent advisers and the government says it is introducing a scheme to tackle the problem.


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