Asylum or protection claims

Some children and young people arrive in the UK and seek asylum. They may be with their family or they may be on their own. Seeking asylum means making an application to stay in the UK because of the risk to them in their country of origin. If their asylum or protection claim is successful, the child or young person will be given a visa as a refugee.

If a child or young person is seeking asylum, it is important that they have legal representation from a lawyer (a regulated adviser or solicitor) they trust. Legal aid is available for asylum claims, so they will not have to pay for the lawyer. To find a legal aid lawyer who does asylum, visit the Ministry of Justice website. Enter your postcode, town or city and under ‘category’, tick ‘immigration or asylum’.

Some children or young people have an asylum or protection claim even when they have lived in the UK for a long time. For example, a teenager may have grown up in the UK. It turns out that they were originally trafficked here when they were a child and they would be at risk if returned to their country of origin. Another example might be where the young person’s sexuality or religion would put them at risk if they were returned to their country of origin. Ask might there be a risk to the child or young person on return? If the answer is yes, they should speak to a lawyer about making an asylum or protection claim. They can make a claim that is based on both risk and on arguments about their life and belonging in the UK.

What about young people who have claimed asylum and have been refused?

Some asylum-seeking children come to the UK on their own and are mostly looked after by the local authority, living in foster care or semi-independent accommodation. In 2017, the Home Office granted a form of protection status in 58 per cent of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children’s cases. However, the others are refused any leave or are granted only temporary leave. This temporary leave is called UASC leave (‘Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Child’ leave) and is granted for 30 months or until the child turns 17½, whichever is shorter. It is very important that a child understands they have a right to appeal to an independent tribunal against the Home Office’s decision to refuse them asylum or protection status. It is almost always advisable to appeal against the refusal. However, this needs to be done quickly, within 14 days of the refusal decision.

If the appeal against the asylum refusal is unsuccessful, the child still holds their UASC leave. At the age of 17½ before it expires, they can apply for further leave to remain in the UK. This application is likely to be based on their continuing claim that they would be at risk on return and on the life they have built here. If this application fails, the young person will again have a right of appeal. If the appeal and any onward appeals fail, they will stop having valid permission to be in the UK. This is known as being appeal rights exhausted. Young people who reach this stage can be very vulnerable and it is important to offer support. Depending on their circumstances, they may be able to make a new application at some stage, either based on their fear of return or based on their life in the UK, for example if they are in a relationship.

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