WHO IS AN ASYLUM SEEKER?
The Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, also known as the 1951 Refugee Convention, is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines who is a refugee, and sets out the rights of individuals who are granted asylum and the responsibilities of nations that grant asylum.
A refugee, generally speaking, is a displaced person who has been forced to cross national boundaries and who cannot return home safely.
An asylum seeker is someone who has asked to be recognised as a refugee. Asylum seekers are men, women and children. Home4U works with adults.
To gain refugee status they must prove "a well-founded fear of persecution on return, for one of five reasons - race, religion, nationality, particular social group, political opinion - and for which they are unable, or through fear, unwilling, to seek protection within their country."
Sam Ivin's art captures the loss of self that so many experience when they experience long waits in the asylum system.
Find more on Ivin's work here.
WHAT HAPPENS TO ASYLUM SEEKERS IN THE UK?
When people arrive in the UK and claim asylum, they will have to wait for the Home Office to determine whether or not they will be considered eligible for protection.
According to Refugee Action, 76% of people wait more than 6 months for this decision on their claim.
During their wait for a decision, asylum seekers can be supported by the National Asylum Support Services (NASS). They can be dispersed to any area of the UK and have no choice. The Welsh Refugee Council describes on their website how much of this accommodation is of a very poor standard. Support at this point is £39.63 per week. That's just over £5.50 a day for food, clothing toiletries, travel, household and other essentials.
If a positive decision is made, a person will be granted Refugee Status and be able to begin their life in the UK. Although this is a positive event, there will be many obstacles at the beginning of this. They will start their life in the UK often without the normal support of family and friends, and finding work or claiming benefit will almost certainly take longer than the 28 days notice they are given to leave their NASS accommodation.
If a negative decision is made and not able to be overturned on appeal, a period of destitution will almost certainly begin. Home4U is vital whilst the UK continues to use destitution as a Policy, a tool to try to control migration.
WHY IS LIFE SO DIFFICULT FOR ASYLUM SEEKERS IN THE UK?
Life as an asylum seeker is spent waiting for decisions to be made on their legal claims and support applications. These decisions will be delivered by post with no fixed timeframe. Individuals speak of watching the letterbox everyday and worrying about what the decision will be and what will happen next.
POVERTY AND DESTITUTION
MYTHS AND STEREOTYPES
The financial support available to people seeking asylum is too low to meet basic needs in the long term. Unable to work, the day is long and empty and with very little money, finding things to do is difficult. If a negative decision is made, the person will no longer have even this meagre support and will risk complete destitution as they are still prohibited from working.
Many myths make the lives of those seeking asylum difficult. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work yet blamed for 'taking our jobs'. Their support and housing is funded by Central Government and does not affect Local Council funds or allocations of housing to those on the waiting list.
ISOLATION AND LONELINESS
Many people who are seeking asylum face isolation and loneliness. They might have been separated from friends and family, might be experiencing bereavement and everything is exacerbated by being in a different culture. Making relationships in the UK is difficult for some because of language barriers and lack of opportunity to join groups.