Asylum seekers can be some of the most vulnerable people in society, many of whom have escaped brutal torture and imprisonment. An asylum seeker is someone who has lodged an application for protection on the basis of the Refugee Convention or Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Refugee Council, a leading charity in the UK working directly with refugees and asylum seekers, has found that asylum seekers do not come to the UK to claim benefits, indeed most do not even realise they can receive financial support. The majority of asylum seekers live in poverty and suffer from poor health and hunger.
Freedom From Torture is a charity that supports torture survivors in the UK, the majority of whom are asylum seekers. Many of these asylum seekers spend months and sometimes years waiting for the Home Office to assess their claims. During this time, most are prohibited from working in the UK to support themselves, leaving them to survive on an allowance of around £35.35 - £37.75 per person, per week.
This week it was reported by The Guardian that the Home Office encourages asylum seekers to return home before their cases have even been considered. In a letter given to asylum seekers (seen by The Guardian), the Home Office Asylum Routing Team inform asylum seekers of the date their main asylum interview will take place but also provide ‘Help and Advice on Returning Home’. Details are provided regarding whom at the Home Office asylum seekers should contact if they want to go home. In previous years, this assistance was only offered once an application for asylum had been rejected. The letter states “The team can discuss your return, obtain your travel document and send it to the port of departure, help with the cost of your tickets or provide other practical assistance”.
It is argued that providing these details at an early stage of the application process is part of the Home Office’s determination to encourage as many people as possible to return home. A Home Office spokeswoman argued against this, stating that informing asylum seekers about their options to leave on a voluntary basis at an early stage has been part of Home Office practice for more than 10 years.
Despite the letter stating that the options to leave are voluntary, some are concerned that these letters will give reason for vulnerable people to further distrust the system. Vulnerable people could be scared into returning home and potentially subjected to human rights abuses upon their return as a result.
The Home Office came under fire last year following a report from the immigration system’s watchdog claiming that the Home Office is getting worse at processing asylum requests, despite a falling number of claims. The national statistics confirm that the number of asylum seekers has reduced from 15,156 in 2016, to 14,767 in 2017.
Gherson has over 30 years of experience in assisting with various immigration matters. If you need assistance or wish to receive some more information regarding your immigration matters, please contact us.
The information in this blog is for general information purposes only and does not purport to be comprehensive or to provide legal advice. Whilst every effort is made to ensure the information and law is current as of the date of publication it should be stressed that, due to the passage of time, this does not necessarily reflect the present legal position. Gherson accepts no responsibility for loss which may arise from accessing or reliance on information contained in this blog. For formal advice on the current law please don’t hesitate to contact Gherson. Legal advice is only provided pursuant to a written agreement, identified as such, and signed by the client and by or on behalf of Gherson.