Asylum Seeker

An asylum seeker is a person who has crossed an international border in search of safety and refugee status in another country. The person and dependents have applied for asylum. In the UK asylum seekers are people who are awaiting a Home Office decision as to whether they can remain.

The 1951 UN Convention and 1967 UN Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, enshrine the rights of asylum seekers and refugees.

The Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) of the Home Office processes asylum applications.  The IND is part of the Home Office.

An asylum application can be made at the port of entry, or ‘in-country’ by requesting asylum and then submitting oral and written evidence to the IND.  This evidence is used to make a decision on an asylum application and the decision may be one of four different outcomes:

· An award of refugee status if an asylum seeker is judged to have ‘a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’ (1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees).
· An award of Humanitarian Protection granted to asylum seekers refused refugee status, who, if removed, would face in their country of return serious risk to life arising from the death penalty, unlawful killing, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment if returned. This is a time-limited status.
· An award of Discretionary Leave, granted to people who are refused asylum, but who cannot be returned to their home country or a safe third country. This is often granted to unaccompanied children who have been refused asylum or Humanitarian Protection, who cannot be legally returned until they are 18.
· Refusal. Some 83 per cent of initial decisions were refusals in 2003. Some, but not all, asylum seekers whose cases are refused have a right of appeal before being removed from the UK. About 25 per cent of appeals are successful.

Asylum-seekers are no longer allowed to work in the UK. But they still need support and housing. On 3rd April 2000 the National Asylum Support Service, a new Home Office department, came into operation. Its function is to provide housing and financial support for asylum seekers. Thereafter, new asylum seekers no longer have access to benefits provided by the Benefits Agency. New asylum seekers who need accommodation will also be housed throughout the UK in an attempt to move asylum seekers away from London and the South East.

A teacher’s role in supporting children going through the asylum process
Many schools particularly in cities have children who are in the process of applying for political asylum. This is a time of tension and uncertainty for children and their carers. As well as ensuring that the educational needs of these children are met, teachers may need to:

· giving the family moral support;
· trying to see if the family has got a good legal representative;
· ensuring parents/carers know about English language classes, support and advice agencies, refugee community groups;
· ensuring that asylum-seeking children are able to claim free school meals, travel and uniform grants;
· keeping stocks of nearly new school uniform, winter clothes and sports equipment for children who will not have the means to buy such equipment.

Rutter, J. (2003) Supporting Refugee Children in 21st Century Britain, Stoke on Trent: Trentham Books