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The asylum seeker journey to the UK

Determining which country to live in is just one of the decisions migrants have to make when leaving their home country. There are various reasons asylum seekers choose to come to the UK, some may already have family here, others can speak English coming from countries whose governments have links with ours and other European countries may not be suitable for them. Although it may seem as if the UK is a top choice for many, in reality it ranks lower on the list – in 2019 Germany received 166,00 asylum applications, France received 129,000 and the UK just under 35,000.

Those that do decide on the UK face an extremely tough journey. Recently, our news has been filled with tragic stories of people attempting to reach the UK, whether on a boat crossing the Channel or by land hidden in a lorry. With such a dangerous and horrific route, it can be difficult to understand why an individual may choose to make such a journey. In short, currently to date, the UK provides no solid option for a safe, legal and formal process for those wishing to seek asylum in the UK.

What happens?

The lack of legal routes to the UK is astonishing. In more cases than not, the Home Office expects people to physically reach the country before starting the process of asylum. The two ‘official’ routes to the UK are the Family Reunification Rule and the Syrian Resettlement Programme.

1) Family Reunification Rule – a rule which permits children under the age of 18 or a spouse to join their parents or their spouse in the UK if that person has refugee status or humanitarian protection. The rule does not extend to a person wishing to join their siblings or parents attempting to join their children. (This rule is currently protected by EU law and will stop at the end of this year following Brexit).

2) Syrian Resettlement Programme – an initiative launched in conjunction with the United Nations whereby the aim is to have at least 20,000 Syrian refugees in the UK by 2020. (There are some other similar UK government schemes linked to the United Nations Refugee Agency for people who are deemed ‘at risk’).

With limited choices for a legal route, asylum seekers are often forced to travel illegally and undocumented in the hope of reaching the UK. It is only once they’ve entered the country that they can legitimately begin the process of claiming asylum.

Once in the UK, asylum seekers must undergo Home Office interviews, are housed in poor conditions (and regularly moved around), live on a low budget (£5 a day) and are restricted by being unable to legally work. It can take anything from a few months up to several years before an application is approved and you are granted refugee status.

Help to make a difference by joining Safe Passage’s campaign. Safe Passage are a charity that are committed to helping young refugees get access to legal routes to safety and are currently campaigning for the Government to introduce a family reunion programme for after Brexit:

Want to understand more about the decisions refugees have to make when leaving their home country? UNHCR has produced an app to show examples of the refugee journey:

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