The Journey of asylum seekers and their rights to education, employment, welfare benefits, housing, health and social services in the UK
In the essay, I will be focusing on the asylum seekers in the UK. The focus of this essay is to see how their rights to education, employment, welfare benefits, housing, health and social services are exercised in the British society. I will start by defining what an asylum seeker is.
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The journey will consist of different stages which are first of all seeking asylum and the rights that they get with the status. The second stage will be to see how the rights change when they are granted refugee status. And the last stage will be to examine what they need to achieve in order to become British citizen.
An asylum seeker is person who has submitted an application for protection under the Geneva Convention and is waiting for the claim to be decided by the Home Office (2011). Asylum seekers should have the right to live in safety which is ultimately more important than the right to remain in one’s own community or country. When strategies have failed, and when people have developed a well-founded fear of being killed, injured or abused, they must have the option to escape from the danger which is threatening them.
The UK has an obligation under international law to protect people fleeing persecution. The UK has committed itself to the principles of universal declaration of human rights (1948) which includes the rights to seek and enjoy asylum in other countries. As signatory to the convention, the UK is responsible for guarantying that those with refugee status enjoy equal rights to the UK citizens (UNHCR, United Nations High Commissioner For Refugees, 1951).
Each individual will have his own reasons of seeking asylum. It could be that they are facing persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, sexual orientation, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion. In too many cases and in too many countries, people who have succeeded in fleeing from violations of human rights in their own homeland are confronted with further threats in the country where they have sought asylum.
While refugees are technically the beneficiaries of international protection, they may in practice be at constant risk of intimidation or assault, either from members of the host community or their own compatriots. Also refugee women and girls are confronted with specific protection problems, especially in the situations where established social structures and values have broken down, and where the local authorities lack the capacity to enforce law and order. Sexual violence and exploitations are some major issues, which have only recently started to attract systematic international attention (Helton, 1994). I will also illustrate an example of sexual exclusion, two gay men who said they faced persecution in their home countries have the right to asylum in the UK, the Supreme Court has ruled. Homosexuals are as much entitled to freedom of association with others who are of the same sexual orientation as people who are straight (BBC, 2010).
Asylum seekers don’t have many rights in the UK. The Reception Directive defines an asylum seeker as a non-EU national who has made an application for asylum in respect of which a final decision has not yet been taken. In the UK, eligibility for support under the Asylum Support Regulations and Interim Provisions Regulations starts when a claim for asylum under the Refugee Convention or a claim under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (‘ECHR’) has been recorded by the Secretary of State but not determined. In practice, therefore, asylum seekers who fulfil the eligibility criteria may be left without support due to delays in recording a claim or where it is disputed that a claim has been brought forward. The Home Office may in fact decide not to record an asylum claim if it is a second claim that does not disclose new evidence. Although, following a High Court judgment, the Home Office has extended section 4 (hard cases) support to such cases, it is arguable that the domestic requirement that a claim must be recorded to trigger entitlement to support is unlawful under the Directive (Justice, 2005). They have access to free health care from the NHS (National Health Service), if you receive asylum support from the UK Border Agency you may qualify for extra free healthcare such as NHS prescriptions, dental care, sight tests and vouchers to help you buy glasses.
To get this you need to obtain an HC2 certificate, which is issued by the UK Border Agency on behalf of the Department of Health and is evidence that you cannot afford to pay for these things yourself. The certificate is for you and any dependants you have. It is valid for six months. They also have the right to support and accommodation if they meet the requirements for it. They will not be provided housing in London. Very limited housing may be available in the south-east of England. While they are providing their housing, they must stay at the address they are given unless if they are given permission to move.
The UK Border Agency provides different housing at different stages of an application process. If an asylum seeker qualifies for housing when they first make an asylum application, the UK Border Agency will place them in what they call initial accommodation, which gives them somewhere to live for the first two or three weeks.
After this they will usually move to a different housing facility. It will normally be in the same region of the country as the initial accommodation, and in the region where their case owner works. Asylum seekers will not be able to choose where they want to live if they are provided housing facilities by the UK Border Agency (Home Office 2011).
Asylum seekers can practice their own religion, and are expected to show respect for people of other faiths. They are treated fairly and lawfully regardless of their race, age, religion, sexual orientation or any disability. The children of asylum seekers applicants have the same right to education as all other children (5-16) in the UK (Home office 2011). Schools commit much time, effort and resources to integrating the asylum-seeker pupils in a positive and supportive manner. Several schools have well-established and effective arrangements for the admission and induction of the newly arrived pupils and provide sound teaching support. Unfortunately, not all schools are well informed about basic procedures and guidance on the education of asylum-seeker pupils (Ofsted, Office for Standards in Education).
Asylum seekers will not normally be allowed to work while the Home Office is considering their asylum application, except in very limited circumstances. In this paragraph, it will be noted what those circumstances are. The majority of asylum applicants are not permitted to work while the Home Office considers their application. This is because entering the country for economic reasons is not the same as seeking asylum, and it is important to maintain a distinction between the two. However, if an asylum seeker has waited longer than 12 months for a decision to be made on their asylum application; under strict circumstances, the Home Office may grant them with a temporary work permit.
Currently, most new asylum applications receive a decision within 30 days. However, if an application has been rejected, the applicant may request permission to work if they have made asylum-based further submissions which have been outstanding for more than 12 months. This will primarily affect people who have already made further submissions. Anyone making further submissions now is unlikely to be become eligible to apply for permission to work (Home Office 2011).
Since 1980, 6000-7000 asylum applications per annum, by people originating from countries such as Iran, Iraq, Ghana, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Poland, Afghanistan, Sri Lanka (Crisp and Nettleton,1984). In 2007, 19 of every 100 people who applied for asylum were recognised as refugees and given asylum. Another 9 of every 100 who applied for asylum did not qualify for refugee status but were given permission to stay for humanitarian or other reasons (when these figures were published, 17 of every 100 applications had not yet resulted in a final decision).
In some cases, individuals are forced to remain in detention centres while the decisions are being made. Those removal centres are used for temporary detention, in situations where people have no legal right to be in the UK but have refused to leave voluntarily. Some of those detained in any of these centres can leave at any time to return to their home country. If the Home Office has refused to give a given asylum seeker the permission to stay in the UK and their appeals (if any) against the decision have failed, they must return to the country that they come from. If those asylum seekers do not return voluntarily, Home Office will enforce their removal and they may detain them until they return them to the homeland.
If asylum seekers decide that they want to return to their home country, they can do so at any stage of their application for asylum. They must tell their case owner if they decide to go. Asylum seekers should also tell their legal representative, if they have one (Home Office, 2011).
Asylum seekers also have the right to appeal which is usually called fresh claim. When a human rights or asylum claim has been refused or withdrawn or treated as withdrawn under paragraph 333C of these Rules and any appeals relating to that claim is no longer pending, the decision maker will consider any further submissions and, if rejected, they will then determine whether they can result to a fresh claim. The submissions will amount to a fresh claim if they are significantly different from the material that had previously been considered. The submissions will only be significantly different if the content had not already been considered; and taken together with the previously considered material, created a realistic prospect of success, notwithstanding its rejection (Home Office, 2011).
A question that arises is whether the UK would have to change the practice of detention of asylum seekers in accommodation centres (such as Oakington and Harmondsworth) in the light of the Reception Directive. Article 7(2) allows Member States to ‘decide on the residence of the asylum seeker’ for reasons of public order, public interest or ‘where necessary, for the swift processing and effective monitoring of applications’. This provision seems to address the Oakington justification, but it does not seem to cover detention. The provision covering detention, on the other hand (Article 7(3) in combination with Article 2, allows for confinement to a particular place ‘when it proves necessary, for example for legal reasons or reasons of public order’. There is no specific reference to the swift processing of applications. However, the provision is deliberately open-ended and non-exhaustive. The UK Government argues that domestic practice is not affected, while JUSTICE, on the other hand, argues that the provision must be interpreted very restrictively.
Those detainees can be family, single mothers, single person, foreign national prisoners who have completed prison terms for serious crime but who then refuse to comply with the law by leaving the UK (Home office 2011).
There are at least 280,000 people living in poverty in Britain after having their leave to remain refused. Some of them are appealing those decisions. Some just go completely underground, taking their chances on the streets of the UK with no money or shelter (Independent news, 2007).
The second stage will be to receive refugee status if the application is successful. From there, they will have the rights to work, to education (included university access), health, travel but they are not allowed to go their home countries until they are granted British citizen. A convention travel document issued to an adult will usually be valid for 10 years if they have permission to stay in the United Kingdom permanently (known as ‘indefinite leave to remain‘). Indefinite leave to remain (ILR) is an immigration status granted to a person who does not hold right of abode in the United Kingdom (UK), but who has been admitted to the UK without any time limit on his or her stay and who is free to take up employment or study, without restriction. When indefinite leave is granted to persons outside the United Kingdom it is known as indefinite leave to enter (ILE). If they have temporary permission to stay in the United Kingdom (known as ‘limited leave to remain‘). Limited leave to remain (LLR) is an immigration status which will allow a person to stay in the United Kingdom for a period of two or five years according each individual’s case, their convention travel document will usually be valid for the same period as your permission to stay here, up to a maximum of five years ( Home Office, 2010). Under the terms of the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, a state has the right to withdraw refugee status from any individual once it is safe for that person to return to their homeland ( Human Rights Watch,1995).
There is a waiting period before applying for the citizenship which is normally five years. They also require evidence to cover the relevant five- year period, because they will to see if you were in the country. The document which they require can be P60 tax certificates; or; an employer’s letter confirming employment; or a benefits letter confirming job seekers’ allowance claimed; or a benefits letter confirming incapacity benefit claimed; or documentary evidence confirming pension received.
If they commit an offence for example drink driving, being involved in any kind of criminal activities, the waiting period can increase to ten years.
There is a fee which must be paid in full according to the status. If you are single person and want to apply for naturalisation the fee is ?836 and for couple, its ?1294 (Home Office 2011).
There is a written test which is required before applying called evidence of knowledge of English and life in the United Kingdom and there is charge of ?35. The next step will be to attend the nationality checking service which cost ?60 for single and ?90 for couple, and can be different depending on which county council you decide to go to (Home Office, 2010). The nationality checking service is provided by local authorities (for example your county council or city council)
A local authority can accept and forward your application to us. They will ensure that your form is correctly completed, and they will copy your documents and return them to you. They will ensure that your application is validly submitted and that the unavailable requirements for citizenship are met. However, they will not give you nationality advice.
All applications for citizenship are subject to enquiries to ensure that the statutory requirements have been satisfied. Because of these enquires, we anticipate that applications may take up to six months to complete. Some applications may be dealt with more quickly and some may take longer, depending on the nature of the enquiries to be carried out.
To conclude this essay, I would to say that my view on the asylum seekers has changed. First of all, the government should change some policies about the asylum seekers because the UK is a country which respects human rights. My main concern was the way detention operates in case of an asylum case being refused. Children should not be in the detention centre. Child asylum and the detention of children for immigration purposes has been the subject of widespread media attention, and Channel 4’s Dispatches programme on Monday 29 November discussed 3 cases (Home Office, 2010). The government should make an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes, and should work with a number of charities representing children and asylum seekers to achieve this end.
My other issue is that the government should let those people who want to work while they are waiting for decision on their immigration to be made because the state losses by having to support them financially. For example, by issuing a temporary work permit, because some of these asylum seekers are intellectuals and the fact they forced to rely on benefit might create a level of low self-esteem. Citizenship’s fees should be revised as in my opinion, they are in elevation. There have undoubtedly been positives (as well as, presumably, negatives) from past patterns of immigration.
Now, however, they must focus, without the left/right prisms, on agreeing future economic migration policy. Politicians, in preparing the ground for debate, must put aside party politics.
They need to assess how many people can live sustainably in the UK, and turn our conclusions into policy. They have a finite resource: land. It is about that, and about housing, infrastructure, public services, water, and the effects of climate change, communities and government’s responsibilities to its citizens (Guardian, 2011).
BBC (2010) asylum seekers [online] available from
Guardian(2010) immigration [online] available from http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/apr/18/david-cameron-opening-door-immigration-debate [18 April 2011]
Helton, A, ‘ Refugees and human rights’, In Defense of the alien 1994, New York, 1994
Human Rights Watch, return to Tajikistan: Continued Regional and Ethnic Tensions, New York, 1995.
Independent news (2007) starving asylum seekers [online] available from < http://independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asylum seekers are-left-to starve -in-britain-397576.html> [22 October 2007]
J. Crisp and C. Nettleton, Refugee Report. British Refugee Council, 1994.
Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, s 103(1). New appeal rights were introduced by the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004 in two circumstances: (a) for failed asylum-seeking families refused support on the ground that they failed to leave the UK voluntarily (s 9); and (b) in relation to the withdrawal or refusal of section 4 (hard cases) support (s 10).
OFSETD (2003) asylum education [online] available from < http://ofsted.gov.uk> [October 2003]
Home Office( 2010) asylum and immigration [online] available from