Dear Mr Bassie,
I live here in the United Kingdom and I have a relative who has recently applied for asylum. Can you please tell me what he can expect while he is awaiting his decision?
While the United Kingdom (UK) authorities are considering applications for asylum, there are certain things that can be expected. As of March 2007, when a person makes a new asylum application, he or she is placed with an individual who is known as a case owner.
It is anticipated that the case owner will finalise the application within six months. If the applicant is successful, he or she will begin integrating into life in the UK. However, if that person is not successful, then he or she will have to return to his or her home, either voluntarily or by enforced removal. It is also worth noting that the authorities may detain the applicant while the application is being considered.
Once an application has been made for asylum, there are six main stages to the process. The applicant is screened; a case owner is then assigned to the applicant; the applicant has his or her initial interview; following this is the applicant's asylum interview; the applicant will await the UK authority's decision; and, finally, the actual decision.
It should be noted that at any stage of the process, the applicant is free to leave the UK voluntarily, either by making his or her own travel arrangements, or if unable to do so, then the applicant has the option of applying to the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme.
An asylum applicant has certain rights and responsibilities while he or she is in the UK.
The asylum applicant in the United Kingdom has the right to be treated fairly and lawfully regardless of his or her race, gender, age, religion, sexual orientation, or any disability. The applicant may practise his or her own religion, and he or she is expected to show respect for people of other faiths. The applicant has the right to have his or her application considered fairly and accurately.
In addition, the applicant should have access to support and accommodation if he or she meets the requirements for it and also have access to free health care from the National Health Service (NHS).
The applicant should also have legal representation, and free legal help may be available, depending on the applicant's income level and the case. The applicant will normally be allowed to work while the application is being considered. This information can be received from the case owner.
The applicant should be aware that various types of support may be available, but this will depend on his or her circumstances.
When a person applies for asylum in the UK, it is his or her responsibility to fully cooperate with the UK Border Agency and tell them the truth. It is a crime to make an asylum application that attempts to deceive the British authorities. If an applicant does this and is found guilty of it in a court, he or she may be put in prison, after which he or she may be deported.
The applicant has the responsibility to stay in regular contact with his or her case owner and this includes keeping all appointments. The applicant should obey the law.
The applicant also has the responsibility to care for his or her children and this includes, for example, supervising children who are under the age of 16. If the children are aged between five and 16, they must be in full-time education, usually at school. However, if the application and any appeal for asylum is unsuccessful, then they are to leave the UK. However, it should be noted that until the British authorities have made a decision on an application, they will not take any action to remove the applicant or his or her dependants from the UK.
John S. Bassie is a barrister/attorney-at-law who practises law in Jamaica. He is a justice of the peace, a Supreme Court-appointed mediator, a fellow of the Chartered Institute of Arbitrators, a chartered arbitrator, and a member of the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (UK). Email: email@example.com