If someone is at risk of being persecuted in their own country, they may go abroad and ask for asylum in another country. Granting ‘asylum’ means giving someone permission to remain in another country because of that risk of persecution.
In legal terms, a person who has asked for asylum in the UK and is waiting for a decision on that claim is called an asylum seeker. Someone who has received a positive decision on his or her asylum claim is called a refugee.
Although some asylum seekers might enter the UK illegally, once they have applied for asylum they are no longer ‘illegal’. Anyone seeking protection is entitled to stay in the UK while awaiting a decision on their asylum claim.
The right to claim asylum is in international law. Governments are obliged to provide protection to people who meet the criteria for asylum. The UK has signed these international laws and they are part of UK legislation.