Decisions on asylum and human rights claims made in the UK are made by the UK Border Agency, which is an agency of the Home Office (a UK government department).
It is not legally possible to apply for asylum from outside the UK. Asylum seekers are protected from removal once they have made an asylum claim and are waiting for a decision.
Asylum claims can and should, wherever possible, be made to an immigration officer as soon as an asylum seeker arrives in the UK. Once a person has passed through immigration control and is inside the UK, he or she must claim asylum at the offices of the UK Border Agency in Croydon (in south London). If an asylum application is not made as soon as an asylum seeker enters the UK, the person may be denied welfare support and accommodation. The delay may also harm their claim at a later date. Asylum applicants should find a lawyer to represent them as soon as possible to help them during the asylum application process.
Asylum seekers have been convicted for using false passports or travel documents (for example, to leave their country of origin). Their conviction then adversely affects their credibility when their asylum claim is considered.
In 2007, the Home Office introduced a new process for dealing with asylum claims, called the New Asylum Model (NAM). Each asylum application is assigned to a specific member of UK Border Agency staff (known as a ‘case owner’) who will be responsible for the case, and for all decisions taken on it, from the time the application is made until the person is granted permission to stay or is removed from the UK. Decision-making is much faster than it has been in the past (usually within a few weeks).
There will be an initial ‘screening interview’ in which the UK Border Agency takes the personal details of the applicant and their journey to the UK, checks if they have claimed asylum in the UK or Europe before, and gives them a reference number for their application.
A few days later the applicant will be asked to attend a ‘first reporting event’ where they will meet the case owner who will deal with their case.
The ‘substantive interview’, or ‘asylum interview’, is held within the next couple of weeks. This is when the applicant gets an opportunity to describe to the case owner what has happened to them and what it is they fear in their own country.
Asylum seekers may be asked to attend regular reporting meetings with local UK Border Agency staff at all stages of the asylum process. The UK Border Agency also uses telephone reporting systems and electronic tagging of asylum seekers.
After the screening interview, some applicants are taken to Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre or Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, where their application is ‘fast-tracked’.
They are held in detention while a decision is made on their application within seven days. In these cases, the entire decision-making and appeals process can be completed within nine days.