MPs have backed a new immigration bill which will make arriving in the UK without permission a criminal offence, but what are the current rules surrounding asylum?
Sky News takes a look at the process an applicant must go through in a bid to be given permission to stay in the UK.
What are the current rules surrounding asylum?
If someone wants to stay in the UK as a refugee, they must apply for asylum.
To be eligible for this, they must have left their country and be unable to return because they fear persecution.
Reasons for persecution can be because of race, religion, nationality and political opinion.
It can also be “anything else that puts you at risk because of the social, cultural, religious or political situation in your country”.
Rules state someone must have “failed to get protection” from the authorities in their own country.
When might a claim not be considered?
This can be if someone is from an EU nation or has a connection with a “safe third country” – which is where a person is not a citizen, would not be harmed, or from where people could be sent to another country where they could then be harmed.
If the person travelled to the UK through a safe third country, their claim may also not be considered.
What about other people travelling with the applicant, such as family members?
A partner – and children aged under 18 – can make their own applications at the same time or be included in the lead person’s application as “dependants” if they are with each other in the UK.
Documents which could help officials with the application must also be provided, including passports, identity cards, birth certificates and school records.
How is a claim currently registered?
This is done through a meeting with an immigration officer where the applicant gives information about their case.
This process, called screening, takes place at the UK border as soon as someone arrives and can also happen when an applicant is already in the country if they become eligible for asylum.
After screening, an asylum interview is held. If an applicant fails to attend, an application is usually rejected.
When is a decision made?
It is normally within six months – but can take longer in some cases due to personal circumstances and verification reasons.
If an applicant qualifies for asylum, they can be given permission to stay in the UK for five years and then apply to settle in the country.
Permission to stay can be granted for humanitarian reasons even if someone does not qualify for asylum – which means they can remain in the country for their own protection.
The applicant can stay for five years and then apply to settle in the UK.
If someone does not qualify for asylum or humanitarian reasons, permission to stay can still be granted for other circumstances.
Someone will be asked to leave the UK if there is no reason to stay, although an appeal can be made by the applicant.
What are the figures concerning asylum in the UK?
More than 36,000 people applied for asylum in the country in 2020.
At the end of the year, there was a backlog of 109,000 cases being processed.