Are you here to claim asylum?


The asylum system is complicated. You will have a better chance if you understand how the system works.

If you cannot return to your home country, then you can claim asylum to stay in Britain. Asylum is a right guaranteed for everyone under international law. But you need to convince the immigration authorities that your life or safety would be in real danger if you returned. It is important that you prepare your story and evidence well from the beginning.

You need to show the Home Office that there is a real risk that you will be persecuted or treated badly in your home country because of one of the following reasons: your race; religion; nationality; political opinion; or membership of a particular social group (such as being a woman, gay and so on). You also need to show that your government is unable or unwilling to protect you in any part of the country.

If you have come from another country where you may have been staying recently, you also need to show that you would be mistreated there as well. However, if the authorities believe you have come through another European country on the way to the UK, you are likely to be returned to that country.

Think carefully about which of the above categories applies to you and how your story fits in with them. But even if your political asylum is refused, there might be other reasons (called humanitarian grounds) that may allow you to stay in the UK, such as discrimination, family life and so on. Ask about that!

You must claim asylum as soon as practically possible after you arrive in Britain. If you wait too long, your claim is more likely to be refused, and you may not get help from the government (housing and food). However, you can make a late claim if you have a convincing reason. For example, if you were not able to travel to Croydon before now, or were instructed by your smuggler to wait a few days, and so on.

It is important that you know your story very well and remember all the details – events, places, names and dates. Write them down if that helps. Immigration officials may ask you a lot of questions. They can be unfriendly and stressful. Don’t let them confuse you! And do not answer questions when you are feeling tired or stressed. You can always ask for a break, a glass of water, or stop for a moment to think.

These are the most important things you will need to explain during your asylum interview:

- Why did you leave your country? What events forced you to leave?

- Who exactly are you afraid of or have problems with? A specific person, security branch, police, etc.? Why can’t your government protect you from them?

- Are there any other details or events that are related to your main story? For example, your political activities, membership of any political group, and so on.

- Why can’t you return to your country (or another country you’ve come from)? What could happen to you if you did?

- Do you have any evidence to support your claim? (For example, official documents or information about the situation in your country). More importantly, do you have evidence about what happened to you personally (for example, arrest warrants, court documents, letters from friends and organisations showing you are in danger).

- Do you have any medical or psychological problems? In particular, have you been tortured or mistreated in your home country? If you have, you need to tell the authorities as soon as possible and show them any evidence.

- Be prepared to answer questions about small and strange details, such as your age and the age of your family members, where you grew up or the type of school you went to. The aim of such questions is usually to find out whether you are telling the truth.

The Home Office can take a long time to decide on your claim. During this time, you will normally receive asylum support – a place to live and help with basic living costs. But to get this help, you need to show that you cannot support yourself. For example, if the authorities believe that you can stay with family or friends, or have your own savings, then they may not give you that help.

Sometimes your case might be dealt with under a quicker system called Detained Fast Track. This means that you will be sent to a detention centre (immigration prison) while the Home Office deals with your claim, and you will either have just 2 days to appeal or no right to appeal against their decision in the UK. You may be treated in this way if you come from a particular country and the Home Office thinks your case is straightforward (obvious and weak). However, you may be able to avoid this by being prepared and having a strong case!