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What is a 'refugee'?


Alan Platt (Director) gives expert video advice on: What is a 'refugee'?; What is an asylum seeker?; What grounds can you be granted asylum? and more...

What is a 'refugee'?

A refugee is a person who arrives in the United Kingdom and seeks political asylum under the 1951 refugee convention. That convention allows people who have fear, genuine fears of persecution in their own country, to come and seek sanctuary in the United Kingdom. Once a person asks for political asylum in the United Kingdom, they're interviewed and their claim is considered by the Home Office. If it's a founded claim, they will be allowed to remain here for an indefinite period.

What is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is a person who comes from a foreign country, and looks for asylum in the United Kingdom. They state a claim to asylum, setting out the reasons why they're seeking asylum here. Normally, that can be because they're being persecuted in their own country, by virtue of their religion, their political beliefs, their race, or by virtue of their sex.

What grounds can you be granted asylum?

You can be granted asylum in the United Kingdom on a very broad spectrum of grants. Generally speaking, it depends on a person's religion. It depends on a person's race, and perhaps on their political affiliations. It depends in some cases on their sexuality. The person would have to demonstrate that they have a well grounded fear of returning to the country from which they're from.

What protection does Britain provide for refugees?

If a person makes a successful asylum claim in the United Kingdom, they're granted indefinite leave to remain here, meaning that they don't have to go back to their country of origin, and that they're given permanent residency in this country. Further support would be given to them by the way of support from social services, and also maybe help with accommodation and medical facilities.

How do the home office decide who to give protection to?

Anybody who has, applied for asylum, would have to clearly set out reasons why they were claiming asylum at an interview. The home office would look at the applicant interview, and they would look at any other information and documentation the applicant had, and the home office would also have access to human rights reports about the country from which the individual comes from. All of those would be considered, and obviously, if the home office found at the end of it, that a person had presented and demonstrated a well found fear of persecution, they would be granted asylum.

How do asylum seekers usually enter the UK?

The normal scenario is that an individual who is a visa national will obtain a visa from their country of origin to come to the United Kingdom for a different purpose. That could be as a visitor. That could be as a student. Then when they arrive in the United Kingdom they would then state their asylum claim upon arrival or shortly after at the Home Office. Also a lot of other people arrive clandestinely, as you read in the press, in the back of a lorry or in the back of a car boot and then seek asylum when they arrive in the United Kingdom. So not everybody obtains a visa to come to the UK to claim Asylum. Probably the vast majority don't.

Do you need enter the UK to gain asylum?

No, no you don't. What you can actually do is go along to the British mission in the country you are living in and seek asylum there. You don't have to arrive in the United Kingdom to seek asylum. Although, I would add that the vast majority of asylum seekers either claim asylum when they arrive in the United Kingdom or shortly after at the home office.

What is 'humanitarian protection'?

Humanitarian protection is another consideration that the home office has in many cases. The Human Rights Act in general. This act places an obligation upon the government to consider a person's circumstances before they remove them. It may well be that a person does not qualify for political assylum in the United Kingdom but there are other considerations to take into account about the individuals' circumstances. For example, during the course of their application being under consideration, they may have married in the United Kingdom, established a career here and therefore have a percieved family right to stay in the United Kingdom. So, in many instances, the home office would have to consider the person's position under the Human Rights Act.

What is 'discretionary leave'?

Discretionary leave to remain in the U.K. is granted to individuals who perhaps do not demonstrate that they qualify to remain under the Asylum Act. They may not have demonstrated that they have a well-founded fear of persecution if they return to their home country, but there are other factors that cause the home office to grant that person permission to remain here. It's a halfway house as it were between a political asylum and refusing an application, and a so a person is given discretionary leave to remain because it may not be possible to remove an individual to the country from which they came because of political strife or for war.