Home Office, 2 Marsham St, London. 28 Nov 2006.
Dear Michael (Howard)
Thank you for your letter of 22 Nov' on behalf of Mr.... of Folkestone, raising concerns about the welfare of failed asylum seekers.
I am aware that Mr. ... .'s letter forms part of a wider campaign by Amnesty on this issue, and is based on a template published on their website. Please find enclosed a response dealing with each of the points in turn that you can forward to him and any other constituents who raise similar concerns. Regards. John Reid.
A campaign letter template produced by Amnesty Intl asks the Home Office to make four assurances. The Home Office response is as follows:
AI- 1) No rejected asylum seeker in the UK is forced into destitution. They should continue to receive financial support and accomodation with the same entitlements and rights as provided during the asylum process or given permission to work until their situation is resolved.
The Goverment considers that where it is found that an asylum seeker does not warrent international protection and has no basis to remain in the United Kingdom (UK) they should return to their country of origin voluntarily or, where appropriate, by an enforced removal. We believe that this is justified in the interests of maintaining immigration control. This is why, where a failed asylum seeker no longer has a basis to remain in the UK and there are no obstacles to their return, we cease to provide them with support.
There are situations where failed asylum seekers are not immediately able to return to their countries of origin through no fault of their own. In these circumstances we can and do provide support under section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Support under sedtion 4 may be provided to a failed asylum seeker who is destitute and satisfies one or more of the following conditions:
* the person is taking all reasonable steps to leave the UK, or to place themselves in a position in which they are able to leave the UK.
* the person is unable to leave the UK by reason of a physical impediment to travel or for some other medical reason
* the person is unable to leave the UK because in the opinion of the Secretary of State there is currently no viable route of return available.
* the person has made an application for judical review in Scotland, or, in Engand, Wales, or Northern Ireland, has applied for a judicial review and been granted permission to proceed.
* to avoid a breach of a person's Convention rights, within the meaning of the Human Righrs Act 1998.
Support under Section 4 is provided in the form of self catering accomodation with vouchers to purchase food and essential toiletries. In exceptional cases, full-board accomodation may be provided depending on availability.
Regardless of whether they are receiving support under section 4, failed asylum seekers are entitled to certain health care treatments free of charge, including:
*treatment which is immediately necessary.
* treatment in a hospital Accident & Emergency department unless and until accepted as an in-patient.
* treatment at a walk-in centre in respect of services similar to those at an Accident & Emergency department of a hospital; and
* the treatment of certain specific diseases eg: TB and malaria.
Furthermore, anyone who has begun a course of treament free of charge will continue to recieve it free of charge until the course finishes or they leave the country , whichever comes first. Therefore. an asylum-seeker undergoing treatment (including maternity treatment) will not have that treatment withdrawn if their application for asylum is unsuccesful. New courses of treatment are chargable.
With regard to authorising permission to work, the Government believes that managed migration is a valuable source of skills and labour for the British economy and provides a legitimate channel for those who wish to seek work in the UK. Entering the country for economic reasons is not the same as seeking asylum, and it is important to maintain the distinction between the two. Those with a claim for asylum in the UK must have their applications processed as quickly as possible. Giving asylum seekers permission to work could encourage asylum applications from those with no fear of persecution, slowing down the processing of applications from genuine refugees. This is why we do not generally allow asylum seekers to work while their claim for asylum is under consideration.
As we have made it clear that asylum seekers cannot work whilst their claims are considered, it would be inappropriate to allow failed asylum seekers to do so. Failed asylum seekers have been through the system and it has been decided that they do not require international protection. It would be inappropropriate to allow them to work when they have no legal basis to remain in the UK. Furthermore, allowing failed asylum seekers to work could encourage applications from those with no fear of persecution in an attempt to circumvent the established processes for seeking work in the UK.. Failed asylum seekers who are unable to leave the UK due to circumstances beyond their control (and in receipt of section 4 support) are also not permitted to work. Section 4 is intended as a limited and temporary form of support for people who are expected to leave the UK once the barrier to their leaving is resolved. Whislt support must be compatible with the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), it should not be capable of providing any incentive to remain in the UK. We keep our policies on permission to work under review.
AI- 2)A temporary renewable status is granted to rejected asylum seekers who cannot be returned voluntarily or otherwise to their country of origin for reasons beyond their control within six months.
The Governemnt does not consider it appropriate to grant temporary status to those with no basis to remain. It is important to maintain a distinction between those whose asylum claims are unfounded and those who have obtained leave in the UK through legitimate means Granting temporary leave to those who have no lawful basis of stay would attract people to the UK who have no realistic prospect of remaining here. Support is available to failed asylum seekers under section 4, provided they meet the eligibility criteria, until the barrier to their leaving is resolved.
AI- 3. A temporary renewable status is granted to rejected asylum seekers who have proved not removable for a number of months and where through no fault of their own there remains little prospect of removal.
The Government's position on temporary renewable status is set out above. We can return all nationals voluntarily, providing they comply with the documentation process. In situations where it is problematic to carry out enforced returns of failed asylum seekers we will continue to maintain pressure on governments to re-document their nationals. The IND review reinforced that commiment stating that we will work across government to develop country-specific strategies to make co-operation on re-documentation and return a key feature of our bilateral relations with countries of immigration concern, and we will monitor the impact of these startegies regularly. Again support is provided under section 4 to eligible failed asylum seekers until the barrier to their leaving the UK is resolved.
AI-4. A legal status is granted to rejected asylum seekers who have been in the UK for a number of years, due for example to a long asylum procedure.
The Government aims to ensure the fairness and consistency of the asylum process and does not think it appropriate to grant leave to individuals who do not qualify under the Immiration Rules and published policies simply beacuse there has been a delay in the asylum process. About 70% of IND's initial decisions on substantine asylum applications are currently being made and served within two months. In the IND Review new targets were published for the New Asylum Model. By the end of 2011 we aim to be granting or removing 90% of new asylum applicants within six months. We will also deal with the current legacy of unresloved cases within five years or less.
Furthermore we do consider granting indefinate leave to remain where a prson has had 10 years continuous lawful residence or 14 years continuous residence of any legality, subject to certain exclusion clauses. In addition we are committed to our obligations under the UNHCR. Where aperson is to be removed, consideration will be given to all releavant factors, including any strong links to the UK in a person's private and family life, as per Article 8 of the ECHR. Leave may be granted where Article 8 claim is so strong that removal is disproportionate.