New rules force asylum seekers to travel 400 miles to lodge their claim

Media Release

For Immediate Release: Wednesday 14th October

New rules forcing asylum seekers to travel 400 miles to lodge their claims a ‘huge step back’ says Scottish Refugee Council

Scottish Refugee Council calls for the immediate halt to changes in the asylum system which mean vulnerable people face longer journeys and delays in vital support.

Phil Woolas announced yesterday major changes to the procedure for claiming asylum. From today (Wednesday, October 14) anyone making an in-country claim for asylum must do so over 400 miles away at the UKBA Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon.

Currently those in Scotland who want to claim asylum must travel to Liverpool to do so, or can claim in Glasgow if they have children, health issues or other special needs.

In the last three months a total of 68 people arrived at Scottish Refugee Council offices looking to claim asylum. Of that, 36 had to be supported financially to get to Liverpool and 32 were screened in Glasgow, and entered the asylum process here.

The Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon is over 400 miles away from Glasgow and an eight-hour plus journey. New arrivals are often destitute, confused, exhausted and highly traumatised with a limited understanding of English.

John Wilkes, Chief Executive Officer at Scottish Refugee Council, said: “The UKBA’s move today flies completely in the face of their own pledges to reduce destitution and simplify the asylum process. Neither we nor any of our partner agencies have had any prior consultation on these changes.

“Scottish Refugee Council has long called for all people who have arrived in Scotland to be screened in Scotland. This is a huge step back. Those seeking sanctuary will face further delays, further stress and trauma and worsened poverty. These changes must be overturned.”

For more information contact Scottish Refugee Council media officers Karin Goodwin or Clare Harris on 0141 223 7927/07734 030 763

 

Notes to Editors

As of 14 October 2009, all in-country initial asylum applications must be made at the UKBA’s Croydon centre.

As of 14 October, additional changes mean that those presenting fresh evidence as part of their ongoing asylum claims must do so in person at either the Liverpool UKBA office or regional centres. This means those on limited support will need to pay for travel to the centres rather than submitting these claims by post. Scottish Refugee Council believes these changes will worsen rates of destitution among those seeking asylum as well as delay their claims even further.

A person is defined as an asylum seeker whilst they go through the process of claiming asylum. Under the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights everyone has the right to seek asylum from persecution in a safe country. On applying for asylum, a person’s claim is assessed by the UK Home Office against the 1951 UN Refugee Convention. If their claim is successful they are recognised officially as a refugee. Only then do they have the right to work.

 

The UK hosts only two per cent of the world’s refugee population. The majority of the world’s refugees are taken care of by the poorest countries, such as Iran and Pakistan. There are currently about two million Iraqi refugees in Syria and Jordan.

 

Until such time as an asylum claim is lodged people have no access to financial support.

Until the 14th October those in need couldn access grants from the Refugee Survival Trust to help with their bus fare to Liverpool. These amount to £40 for a return journey plus £10 for basic subsistence needs.

 

For more information on Scottish Refugee Council’s services at www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk

 

Case Study 1.

A middle-aged man arrived from Pakistan in the UK in July fearing for his safety in his home country. He is seeking safety from persecution here in the UK and is very worried about the security of his family in his home country.

After being told he would get help from fellow countrymen in Glasgow he travelled by bus to Glasgow and was put up for a few nights there. He was then directed to Scottish Refugee Council’s screening service to get advice on how to claim asylum. It was noted that he had a severe limp and had difficulty walking. He also suffered from high blood pressure. He was told by UKBA to register his claim at their Liverpool office, but Scottish Refugee Council staff were concerned that he would not be able to make the journey.

After being provided with an unfit to travel certificate he was able to register his claim in Scotland and has was dispersed to YMCA accommodation here. Under today’s new rules he would have to travel to Croydon to lodge his claim there and would not be eligible for any support until he got there.

 

Case Study 2.

A 19-year-old man arrived in Scotland from the Democratic Republic of Congo in December 2004. He was taken to Scottish Refugee Council office late on a Monday afternoon. Caseworkers there advised him that he needed to travel to Liverpool to submit his claim for asylum.

However, the man had no money and little grasp of English, and had missed the bus to Liverpool. Scottish Refugee Council directed him to a grant from the Refugee Survival Trust which paid for the bus and for one night of accommodation in Liverpool. Scottish Refugee Council caseworkers had made him an appointment at the Liverpool Asylum Screening Unit and gave him directions in his own language to help him get there.

Under today’s new rules this man would need to travel even further to Croydon to be screened there.