About UK refugees and asylum seekers: The Asylum System

The UK Asylum System is complex, and difficult to navigate for those who are not familiar with it. When someone seeks asylum in the UK, they are first given a Screening Interview. This is to ascertain basic information about their identity, nationality, family and reason for coming to the UK.

The claimant is then given an ARC (ID) card and taken to temporary accommodation in a hostel or hotel, until being sent to a shared house in a dispersal area. There is no choice in this. While in asylum accommodation, they will receive free heating and lighting, plus £39.63 per week asylum benefits. They are not allowed to work while in the asylum system.

The asylum claim will be dealt with by a Home Office caseworker. The claimant will be called for their Main (or Substantive) Interview at Croydon or Liverpool, usually within a few weeks of being dispersed (but sometimes not for many months). The claimant is entitled to a Legal Aid solicitor, but the solicitor is rarely able to attend the main interview.

If their claim is accepted (usually 35-40%), they will be granted Refugee Status (or another form of status such as Humanitarian Protection or Discretionary Leave). Refugee Status is usually for five years, after which they can apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain. If their claim is rejected, they can appeal within 14 days. The case will then go to an Asylum Tribunal, where it will be heard by an Immigration Judge. The asylum seeker will be represented by a barrister at court, if they are still entitled to Legal Aid, while the Home Office will also be legally represented.

If the claim is rejected again, the asylum seeker will have to leave the asylum accommodation within three weeks. They will no longer be eligible for any form of state support, and have no right to public funds. At this point most will be homeless and destitute. Those whose claims are accepted must leave their accommodation within four weeks. They will be entitled to work, and also access full healthcare and mainstream benefits.


This is a simplified diagram of the system.

A full explanation of how the system works, with step by step details of the process, is available in the excellent Right to Remain toolkit.