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Sat 16 December 2017

International & EU conventions
UK Legislation
The Application Process
Misuse of the Asylum Process?
Detention, Dispersal and the moral voice
Asylum & Children
A timeline of refugee arrivals in the UK
Pull & Push Factors
Asylum & anti-Muslim rhetoric

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An asylum seeker claiming asylum at a port of entry is directed in the first instance to a 'reception assistant' for advice and information on the financial, health care and other support that can be provided. 'Reception assistants' work mainly for voluntary sector bodies, well represented by Church-based charities. The asylum seeker will be helped in the completion of an application form, that is submitted to the National Asylum Support Agency (NASS), the Government agency established in April 2000 for handling payments and accommodation. Asylum seekers are given the forbidding 'Statement of Evidence Form' (SEF) - comprising 19 A4 pages and about 120 questions - to be completed in 14 days in English.

The majority of asylum seekers are granted temporary admission pending an outcome of their claim. However, many asylum seekers are held in detention whilst their claim is processed. They are detained at some 30 detention centres and prisons around the country. In breach of international human rights law, there is no adequate judicial oversight of the decision to detain and it appears that detention is being used routinely rather than in exceptional circumstances only.

Initial Accommodation 'options'

Stay in emergency accommodation
This can be arranged by the 'reception assistant', for example in a refuge that is run by a voluntary sector organisation, or in a hostel, while awaiting accommodation instructions from NASS. The Government has also mooted proposals of using ships to provide emergency housing.

Stay with friends and family
This option is being discouraged by Government - legislation is proposed so that asylum seekers who take this option and refuse to be 'dispersed' from London and the south-east will have their support cut off.

In some cases, the asylum seeker may be detained immediately, in a detention centre or even a prison.

Detention centres are sometimes euphemistically described as reception centres - for example the Oakington Reception Centre in Cambridgeshire. Oakington has on site Immigration and Nationality Division (IND), who are responsible for the asylum interview. The underlying rationale is that asylum seekers deemed by the immigration officer to have a weak claim for asylum can be subject to 'fast track processing' - rapid interview and deportation or dispersal subject to the decision made.
[Link: The Asylum Process].

There are a number of detention centres that have been re-named immigration removal centres: Campsfield House in Oxfordshire, Tinsley House in Sussex, Harmondsworth, near Heathrow, Dungavel in Lanarkshire, Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire, Lindholme in Lincolnshire and Haslar in Hampshire. The 900 capacity Yarl's Wood centre, run by Group 4, housing both asylum applicants awaiting their first interview, as well as failed applicants and illegal immigrants awaiting deportation, had to be shut down in February 2002 because of a riot and ensuing fire. It was built to the standard of a Category B medium security prison, equipped with several hundred CCTV cameras, and a five-metre (16-foot) high perimeter fence topped with double coils of razor wire.

Profile of Yarl's Wood,2763,650884,00.html

Yarl's Wood Fire

Campaign to Stop Arbitrary Detention

The Policy of Dispersal

The Home Office has selected a number of 'cluster areas' outside London and the South East, for 'temporary resettlement' of asylum seekers. The allocation to a cluster area is determined by NASS on a 'no choice' basis. The majority of asylum seekers dispersed have been sent north - where housing costs are lower and many councils have spare capacity in their housing stock.

Nick Hardwick of the Refugee Council has noted that:

"If dispersal is going to work, government departments across the board must develop proper support services for asylum seekers in dispersal areas. Dumping asylum seekers on sink estates where they cannot access basic services such as healthcare and education is leaving them abandoned and very vulnerable"

How Asylum Seekers are Dispersed Across the UK

Total Asylum seekers dipersed: 25,245

Unaccompanied or lone child asylum seekers are not dispersed and mainly accommodated in Kent

The placement of asylum seekers in the deprived parts of Britain has sparked off racist incidents, for example:

In August 2001, the Kurdish asylum seeker Firsat Yildiz Dag was murdered in Glasgow's Sighthill housing estate - an area where youth unemployment is 50%

A year earlier, Afghan asylum seekers in Hull were subject to a series of violent attacks. One person has been stabbed, and another lost an eye when he was hit with a stone. Seven Afghans have had to be moved from Hull to Sheffield for their own safety.

The Moral Voice of Britain

A few prominent religious leaders, most notably in the Catholic Church, have spoken up to remind the nation of the need for compassion, generosity of spirit and fairness in dealing with fellow humans in distress. For example Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor recently sent the following letter to priests in the Westminster archdiocese:

"As Catholics, we recognise and value the uniqueness of each human being and are called upon to proclaim our membership of the same global family, regardless of race or ethnic origin.... Immigration detention, long delays (as much as three years or more) waiting for decisions on asylum claim, the exclusion of children from mainstream education, levels of financial support at only 70 per cent of income support and the constant denigration at the hands of a hostile press are just some of the burdens added to the pain of exile".

The Catholic Herald, 21 June 2002.

Fr Jim Fleming, an organiser of the National Refugee Week this year echoed these sentiments:

[Asylum seekers are] bonus not bogus, contributors not scroungers...labour shortage is acute and the skills, talents and qualifications of these new immigrants can be fully utilised.

The Catholic Herald, 21 June 2002.

Catholic Bishop O'Donoghue also expressed concern with Anglo-French plans mooted in May 2002 for handling the asylum seekers detained at Sangate near Calais:

"We need a rational discussion about what the French are going to do, the circumstances that the refugees are living in and the merits of each application. Of course France has its humanitarian obligations too. But let us not forget that many of them have fled from religious or political persecution, from famaine and war, and are trying to re-unite with their families".

John Jeseet, secretary of the Catholic-based 'Bishop's Committee for Migrants' has noted that "most of them speak English, there are established Iraqi and Afghani communities in Britain and we should accept the consequences of our foreign policty towards their countries."

The Catholic Herald, 31 May 2002

Misuse of the Process?


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