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About claiming asylum in the UK

The truth about claiming asylum in the UK

The Harsh Environment

This is a phrase coined by the then prime minister, Theresa May, in 2012.  It concerned the treatment she wanted meted out to what she called irregular migrants 

A person seeking asylum has no right to work for at least the first year while waiting a decision.  Even then the work can only be those jobs listed on the government Shortage Occupation List.

A person seeking asylum has no recourse to public funds, i.e. they cannot receive job seekers allowance, universal credit, housing benefit, a government pension, etc.

A typical person claiming asylum lives in grave poverty, generally forbidden from working, they survive on an allowance which is a small fraction of what a person on universal credit receives.

A person seeking asylum must live where they are told to by the Home Office.  There is no government agency, nor ombudsman who seeks to protect their rights.  A person seeking asylum has very limited access to the legal system, and what protections they seek, enforced through the use of judicial reviews, are being curtailed.


People seeking asylum are subject to indefinite detention without trial.   Politicians, encouraged by hostile voices in the media, and the hue and cry from some among the voting public, are taking steps to criminalise asylum seekers.

The charitable group Right to Remain says “On 6 July 2022, remaining parts of the Nationality and Borders Act (or “NABA”) became law. It introduces grim and far-reaching changes to the UK asylum system and is likely to have a devastating impact on the lives of people fleeing persecution (this means danger specific to them in the country they are from) and seeking safety in the UK.”

What Does the Nationality and Borders Act Mean for UK Asylum and Immigration Law?

The Home Office disperses people seeking asylum across the country to wait while the asylum process proceeds at a glacial space.

Despite the number of asylum claims having halved in the last twenty years, the number of people waiting for a decision has risen nine-fold since a decade ago. In most cases, Home Office asylum claims are decided in favour of: the claimant i.e the claimant requires protection and is deserving of getting leave to remain in the UK.

Previously people claiming asylum might have waited up to six months for a decision. Today it is common for such people to wait two years or more.

People seeking asylum in the UK are made to live in poverty.

People who claim asylum are generally forbidden from working, they cannot claim Universal Credit, and they have no recourse to public funds. The Home Office provides subsistence support (NASS Section 95) while the applicants wait for a decision.

A single, unemployed person, aged over 25 years old, and claiming Universal Credit will receive £113 a week. If an unemployed, single person is under 25 years old, then they will receive £71 per week.

The most recent figures state that the poverty line (after housing costs) for a single person is £148 a week.

A single person who receives asylum support payments gets just £45 week (amount correct as of January 2023)

The justification by the government is that people seeking asylum will only wait a short time before getting a decision. This justification is patently not the case.

Living in poverty is bad for your health

If you live in poverty, you will live a shorter, harsher life than a person not living in poverty.

If you belong to a socially excluded community, such as asylum seekers, and live in poverty, your life chances are even worse.

Skelmersdale is the temporary home to fewer than 100 people seeking asylum and refuge. There is no mosque, Orthodox Christian church, and extraordinarily little culturally familiar food to buy. Unlike a big city, there are very few comforting sights, sounds and smells, which as a foreigner in a strange land, you would find reassuring.

According to the British Medical Association, asylum seekers face unique health challenges.  Refugees and asylum seekers can have complex health needs. These may be influenced by experiences prior to leaving their home country, during transit or after arrival in the UK. Holistic and person-centred care is essential to support resilience and help them adapt to life in the UK.  

Overcoming barriers to refugees and asylum seekers accessing care.

Incidentally, despite what you may hear on social media , etc. there is no evidence that refugees and asylum seekers use a disproportionate share of NHS resources, and migrants in the UK and elsewhere in Europe tend to use fewer services than native populations.

The Skelmersdale Ecumenical Centre is a Charitable Incorporated Organisation.

Charity Number 1184507

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