Dear Mr Bassie,
I read your article where you described what to expect during the time that a decision is being taken with respect to an application for asylum in the United Kingdom. I made an application, but I would like to return home voluntarily and I am not sure if I can do this.
Please advise me.
Thank you for reading my article.
If a person has made an application seeking asylum and decides that he/she would like to return to his/her home country, he/she can do so at any stage of his/her application for asylum. However, in a case such as this, the applicant must tell his/her case owner if he/she decides to do this and in addition, he/she, should also tell his/her legal representative, if he/she has one.
Once the applicant has made the decision to return to his/her home country, then he/she can make his/her own travel arrangements, or the applicant's case owner can help him/her to apply to one of the programmes for assisted voluntary return. These programmes are run by 'choices' under 'choices services' by the Refugee Action (RA).
The RA is a charitable organisation and is independent of the United Kingdom government. It can assist a person who is considering his/her options and also gives such a person practical help to return to his/her home country.
There are various programmes that can assist a person who has applied for asylum to return to his/her home having made the decision to do so. One such programme is the Voluntary Assisted Return and Reintegration Programme (VARRP).
The VARRP is open to asylum applicants whose application has been refused, or who have been given temporary permission to stay in the United Kingdom. This is known as 'limited leave to remain'. This programme is not open to anyone who has been recognised as a refugee and given permission to stay in the United Kingdom, or a person who is in the United Kingdom illegally and who has not applied for asylum.
If a person meets the requirements for the VARRP, he/she will be given help to return to his/her home country and establish a new life there. What this actually means is that there will be a package specifically tailored to a person's individual needs. It should also be noted that such a package will also be available to every member of that person's family who returns home with him/her.
Package of help
The package of help will be agreed with the person while he/she is still in the United Kingdom. If that person consults with the RA, it will discuss his/her situation and offer him/her advice before that person decides what will help him/her most. The help varies, and may include help to set up a business, education, job placement, or training to give that person the skills for a particular job.
If the person's application to the RA programme is approved, then he/she will be expected to leave the United Kingdom no more than three months later.
Generally speaking, if the United Kingdom authorities have refused to give a person permission to stay in the United Kingdom, and if that person's appeal against the unfavourable decision has failed, then the applicant/appelant must return to the country that he/she came from. If he/she does not return voluntarily, the British authorities will enforce his/her removal and may consider detaining that person until he/she is returned to their home.
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.