We have been calling on the government to change their policies in order to protect people seeking safety during the Covid-19 pandemic (and beyond).
The government has made some temporary changes to asylum and resettlement during lockdown, some of which are detailed below.
These changes are constantly being reviewed.
Keep track of changes to the asylum process in the UK. Last updated 17/11/2020 (face-to-face interviews, asylum support, evictions).
Additional temporary locations have been identified across the UK for people to lodge their asylum claim. The AIU in Croydon will continue to function as normal but will additionally be supported by limited operations in Glasgow, Belfast, Liverpool, Leeds, Solihull and Cardiff. These will not operate a 5-day service.
Appointments in Glasgow
Phone the AIU appointment line on 0300 123 4193. Once a call is logged, a member of staff within the Glasgow team will return the call to book an appointment. The appointment line operates Monday to Thursday, 9am to 4:45pm; and Friday, 9am to 4:30pm.
The Home Office has advised that individuals must bring their appointment letter with them. Travel to appointments is deemed essential.
Applicants do not need to make an appointment if they have nowhere to live, however it is strongly advised. It is requested if customers do need to ‘walk-in’, that they contact Asylum Intake Unit appointment line who will be able to advise whether they should attend the Asylum Intake Unit in Croydon or which temporary location they should attend.
Do not attend an appointment with Covid-19 symptoms
Owing to COVID-19 measures if a customer feels unwell, or a member of their household has recently felt unwell, please advise them to check Public Health England advice on when they should stay at home. Please advise them to access the Government website for more information before attending an appointment. If a customer has any of the symptoms mentioned in that guidance, they should not attend their appointment, but please contact us on 0300 123 4193 to make alternative arrangements. Being unable to attend an appointment due to ill health will not affect their immigration status if they inform us.
Some initial interviews have been cancelled, but others are still going ahead.
What is an initial interview?
From UKGov website:
Some reporting centres will open from 20 July for limited hours, outside of peak travel times. You’ll get a text message, email or letter when you have a new reporting date.
Because of coronavirus (COVID-19), it may take longer than usual to get a new reporting date.
Attending reporting centres
Do not attend your appointment if you or someone you live with has any coronavirus symptoms or you are self-isolating – contact your local reporting centre.
Contacting your reporting centre
Festival Court 2
200 Brand Street
Make sure any email includes your:
If you were sent a text message by mistake
Email the Home Office and tell them your reference number (if you have one), name and phone number: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since July, some substantive asylum interviews are being done by video call. The Home Office were already using video link for some asylum interviews prior to the Coronavirus crisis.
If you are told you have an interview, you will be told to attend a Home Office or partner organisation location in person. However, the interviewer will be in a different room, and you will do the interview over video call.
The Home Office have published new guidance on substantive interviews being resumed.
On the 5th November 2020, the Home Office confirmed that asylum interviews will continue to take place across the UK despite new lockdown conditions. The invitation to attend an interview now has further guidance for people who may be feeling unwell or need to self-isolate.
What is a substantive interview?
People on section 95 support whose asylum claim and any appeal are refused will be transferred to section 4 support and will continue receiving financial support. They should receive a letter notifying them of this.
People who have received a positive decision on their asylum claim will not be asked to leave their asylum accommodation but are expected to apply for mainstream welfare benefits, however, their asylum support payments will continue until they have received their first benefit payment.
On June 8th, the Immigration Minister Chris Philp announced that from June 15th, Asylum Support rates would increase from £37.75 to £39.60 per week. Section 4 rates would also be uplifted to £39.60. The uplift is a provisional measure pending a full review.
Update 29th October 2020
The temporary asylum support increase from June 2020 will be made permanent with a very small increase – support rate for people in dispersal accommodation will be £39.63 per week (a 3 pence increase from the June amount). This will require a statutory instrument in parliament.
Relaxed evidence requirements for asylum support applications
The Home Office have stated that they will not expect Migrant Help to have had sight of original supporting documents provided with asylum support applications. Migrant Help will be able to complete information to indicate they have seen copy documents.
As new birth certificates are not currently being issued, the Home Office will not expect applicants for maternity payments to produce them. A full birth certificate may be required at a later date once normal arrangements have resumed.
On 27 March, the Home Office announced that people would not be asked to leave their asylum accommodation (as they normally would if they had received a positive decision – for example, refugee status; or if their claim had been refused by the Home Office and appeal) until at least the end of June.
Evictions of people with leave to remain restarting in England.
The Home Office continued to pause evictions from asylum accommodation from 1 July, but have started issuing “notice to quit” letters (also called “move on” letters) from 11 August. This includes for people who have been granted Refugee Status or similar leave to remain. The process is starting first of all in England, and a similar process will begin in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland at a later date (not yet specified).
Evictions of people who have been refused asylum paused again (17/11/2020)
On 15th September the Home Office announced that they will restart evictions from asylum accommodation and end support for people who have had their asylum claim refused.
Glasgow City Council say they will refuse to co-operate with this policy.
5th November 2020 – the Home Office confirmed that evictions of people with a negative decision have now been suspended again because of the nationwide lockdown, pending a review by the Home Office.
There has been no change to report with regards cessations for newly recognised refugees with a positive decision.
You can now submit further evidence by post or email.
Further Submissions Unit
The Capital Building
Old Hall Street
What is a fresh claim?
Face-to-face appeal hearings were suspended during the lockdown but most courts and tribunals buildings are now open in line with public health advice. Some hearings may still be held remotely (by video link).
If you had a hearing that was cancelled during the lockdown, the Tribunal should be in touch with you about what is happening (or you can contact them if you haven’t heard anything). You should only attend a Tribunal if you have had confirmation from them that you are having a face-to-face hearing. You should not go in person if you (or anyone accompanying you) has tested positive for Coronavirus or if you are showing symptoms. Contact the Tribunal in those circumstances to see if you are able to go ahead without attending in person.
You can find the current status and contact details of courts and tribunals using the court and tribunal finder service (type in, for example, the town/city where your hearing was due or is due to take place) here.
Individuals and families who are in the UK without leave and who wish to return home, are now able to contact the Voluntary Returns Service to discuss the support options available to them using the details below:
Telephone: 0300 0040 202 Opening hours 09:00-17:00
Online form: https://www.gov.uk/return-home-voluntarily
October 2020: dispersal to Glasgow continues to be paused.
As of October 2020, the Home Office have not confirmed when flights to the UK will resume.
The Home Office have produced a FAQ document in response to questions put forward by stakeholders (please note: this FAQ pre-dates the above UNHCR announcement).
They advise that anyone who is in particularly difficult situation and needs their application to be considered as a matter of priority, should send a request, along with scanned recent, acceptable evidence of the circumstances and confirmation that the client is able to travel i.e. confirmation from the airline or ferry company to email@example.com