Who might be a unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC)?
Unaccompanied asylum seeking children/young people are children/young people who are claiming asylum in their own right, who are separated from both parents, and who are not being cared for by an adult who in law or by custom has responsibility to do so. Some will not qualify for asylum but may require 'humanitarian protection' (where an individual is found not to be a refugee under the Refugee Convention but they are nevertheless at risk of serious harm on return to their country of origin - see Home Office Guidance on Humanitarian Protection). Others may not qualify for any leave to remain in the UK. Their status will be determined by the Home Office.
What happens when you arrive in the UK to seek asylum?
If you are an unaccompanied asylum seeking child (UASC), when you arrive in the UK, you should attend the Home Office and explain that you’d like to seek asylum. If you are a child, or say you are a child and have no family in the UK, you will be referred to a Local Authority for an age assessment or a needs assessment. If you have any documents to show your date of birth, you should provide them to the Home Office, as this will mean you may not have to have an age assessment. The Home Office will then provide you with temporary accommodation for up to five days until a transfer to the Local Authority can be arranged. The Home Office will complete an ‘initial screening’ at this point and will also provide you with some important documents that you need to keep safe. This will include an identification card and details of future appointments with the Home Office.
This helpful guide to the Asylum process has been prepared by the Refugee Council. You can download a copy.
Pan London Rota Referral
In London, the Pan London Rota Protocol makes sure that unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC) aged 16 – 18 years arriving into the UK are safely cared for and have somewhere to live. It is a mandatory agreement made between the councils of London. Kingston and Richmond Councils are part of this rota.
If you are a UASC, you might be placed in temporary accommodation at first. After no more than five nights in temporary accommodation, you will go by taxi to the Achieving for Children Leaving Care Team office where a member of the team will meet you. The team is there to understand your support needs and to make an assessment of your age. The team will not have any say on your asylum claim. Any needs that the team assesses that you have will be met, either by the Leaving Care Team, or if it is decided that you are an adult, by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS).
You will be allocated a social worker from the Leaving Care Team, they will take you to a supported placement. This may be with a foster family, or may be your own room sharing with other young people and key workers. You will be supported here. Your foster carer or key worker will help you to shop for and prepare food, find your way in the new area, and use the facilities in the house. You will also be supported to see a doctor, dentist and optician to ensure you are healthy, or any health needs are met. If you don’t have one already, you will also be supported to meet with an immigration solicitor who can help you with your asylum claim. You can ask your social worker how to choose a solicitor although this must be your choice, once you start your claim with them you cannot change to a new solicitor. Your legal fees will be covered by legal aid for your initial claim and appeals so you don’t have to pay anything for these appointments.
Age assessment/Needs assessment
You may undergo an age assessment if you cannot provide documents that confirm your date of birth, or there are some questions about your age. This process will take place within 45 days with up to four meetings, which should take no longer than two hours each. You are entitled to breaks during these meetings. The age assessment will ask some very difficult questions, which may be hard to talk about, but it’s important to ask these questions so that the social worker can understand how to best support you in the present and future. The social worker will ask that you try your best to answer as openly and honestly as you can.
For the age assessment, you will have an interpreter who can speak your language and translate all of the questions and answers. There will ideally be two social workers and an appropriate adult, who is there as an independent adult to make sure that you are being treated fairly and that you are OK in the meeting. The outcome of the age assessment will be shared with you at the end of the last meeting. If it is decided that you are a child, you will remain supported by the Leaving Care Team and can stay in the accommodation you are currently in. If it is decided that you are an adult, your needs will still be met, but you will be referred to NASS and you will need to move and the Leaving Care Team will stop supporting you. If you are unhappy with this decision, you have a right to appeal and your solicitor can help you with this.
The social worker will provide you with a written outcome of your age assessment. They will also provide this to the Home Office. The document that is sent to the Home Office will not share details of your journey or reason for seeking asylum; it will simply share the process of the age assessment and the decision about your age.
When there is no question about your age, you will still have a formal meeting with your social worker, who will ask you questions in order to understand how they can best support you through the development of a needs assessment. The information gained here will not be shared with the Home Office and will not be used to determine your asylum claim; it is simply so that the social worker can get to know you and help you. You will have an interpreter for this meeting.
Home Office initial interview
You should be provided with an appointment for your initial interview with the Home Office soon after arriving in the UK. You will be appointed a caseworker from the Home Office, who will complete the interview and advise you of what to do next. At this interview you should have an interpreter who will be provided by the Home Office. Your legal representative can also be there with you. During this meeting, the Home Office representative will ask you detailed questions about your reason for seeking asylum in the UK and your journey to get here. This meeting may be very difficult for you as you will have to talk about your past in detail. If you need support after this meeting, you should ask your social worker, who can arrange for you to speak to someone. During this meeting, you will be asked to explain:
- How you have been persecuted in your home country?
- Why you are afraid to return to your home country?
You can also provide any documents to support your claim. You can speak to your legal representative about what kind of evidence could support your claim.
Decision on your asylum claim
You should receive a decision about your asylum claim within six months of your interview. However, this may take longer if your claim is complicated and the Home Office need to verify your explanation. It may also take longer if you are involved in any criminal investigations or proceedings in the UK. or your home country. If your decision is taking longer, you can speak to your social worker or personal adviser in the Leaving Care Team or your legal representative, who can speak to the Home Office about the delay. We understand this waiting time can be stressful, so it's important that you speak to your worker about your concerns and focus on engaging in positive activities.
If you are granted asylum, you will generally receive five years "Leave to Remain". After five years, you can apply to settle in the UK.
If you are not granted asylum, you will be asked to leave the UK, which you can do voluntarily and with support, or forcibly. You have a right to appeal this decision. After three months of the Home Office decision, the Leaving Care Team will complete a human rights assessment to identify whether you will eligible for support or not.
You may be asked to sign on at the Home Office at regular intervals during this time and may be liable to be detained. It’s important that you comply with these instructions from the Home Office, even if you are worried about this.
While you are waiting for your initial decision or are on an appeal, you cannot work. You are entitled to study at college and the Leaving Care Team will encourage you to do so. We will support you with your educational, housing and basic needs. It’s important that if someone offers you work during this time, you don’t accept this. This is illegal and could lead to you working in inappropriate and unsafe conditions and you being in breach of the conditions on which you are able to stay in the UK.
Appealing a Decision from the Home Office
If you are not granted asylum after the initial interview, it is your right to appeal that decision. Your legal representative and social worker or personal advisor can help you with this. Sometimes you may have additional evidence to submit, which may help your claim.
You appeal will be heard before a ‘tribunal’. A tribunal is an independent body overseen by a judge. The judge will listen to the Home Office’s reasons for denying your claim and your reasons for seeking asylum, and will make a decision based on this. This may be a frightening process, so please ask your social worker, personal advisor, or legal representative for support and advice. Your social worker or personal advisor can attend the tribunal with you for support if you wish. Once your appeal has been heard, you will again have to wait for an outcome.
Appeal Rights Exhausted
If you have been through the appeal process and the Home Office still make a decision that you will not be granted Leave to Remain in the UK. You will then be told you need to return to your home country. There may be reasons why you can’t go right away, such as needing a travel document, or issues with the route to your home country. In this situation, a decision will be made about how we can best support you during this time. You will be expected to comply with the Home Office if they are asking you to work toward your return home.
It is your right to feel safe, supported and be treated with dignity in the UK. If you feel unsafe or uncertain, you can speak to you social worker or personal advisor about your concerns.
- You have a right to have an interpreter for meetings with the Home Office, doctor, dentist, social worker or solicitor if you need one.
- You have the right to access support and entitlements under the Children Act 1989 and the Children (Leaving Care) Act 2000.
- You have a right to access education and positive activities.
- It is important that you have relevant information about your asylum claim.
- You have the right to a pathway plan.
There is a lot of support available to young people seeking asylum. If you need support, you should speak to your carer, social worker or personal advisor. You can also speak to any of the following organisations to get involved in positive activities or be supported.
The Refugee Council: The Refugee Council offers free advice and support at all stages of your asylum claim. They also run educational programs and support groups for young people and can offer advocacy.
Visit the Refugee Council website
Refugee Action Kingston is a local charity, providing advice and support for refugees and asylum seekers in the Kingston area.
Visit the Refugee Action website