The right to seek asylum

If you come into the UK and you are escaping persecution you have a right to seek asylum.

But you will only be given refuge if you show that:

  • You are outside your own country;
  • You have a well-founded fear of persecution;
  • That persecution is because of your race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion; and
  • You can’t rely on your country’s government to protect you from the persecution.

If you can show that you meet all the criteria above, then the UK has a duty not to return you to where you will face persecution.

Why the right to asylum matters

The right to seek asylum is set out in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. It is one of the most important obligations in international law.

The UK has a long tradition of giving refuge to those escaping persecution, and this has saved the lives of many thousands of people who would otherwise have been killed.

Unfortunately, many people around the world continue to be at risk of persecution, so there continues to be a need for countries like the UK to provide a place of safety.

Treatment of asylum seekers

Asylum seekers are amongst the most vulnerable groups in society. Often they will have left everything behind when they fled their countries. They may have been subjected to torture, or they may have witnessed their loved ones being killed. Often their health and well-being will be seriously affected.

However, the UK and other European countries are making it increasingly difficult for people to exercise their right to seek asylum. Despite the fact that asylum seekers are entering countries legally under international law, they are often treated like criminals.

In particular, Liberty is concerned about:

  • Real issues of mistreatment and neglect of asylum seekers detained in immigration detention centres. Of particular concern is the detention of children and families;
  • Fast-tracking of the asylum application, where asylum seekers have their application decided in just two days and then only have two days to appeal. This mean that those who have complicated asylum claims will not have a chance to have them properly considered, and will not have a chance to properly present their case or to appeal against the decision to remove them;
  • Asylum seekers have no support or right to work, and they can be left without any means whatsoever to support themselves. Leaving people in such complete destitution is inhuman and degrading.