Unaccompanied asylum seeking children

(April 2023) - For unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and young people, we recognise the importance of them being able to understand the process they find themselves in as they become cared for particularly in light of any language barriers at that time. Therefore, we are currently developing audio recordings of this process including the pathway they will follow going forward.  


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Applying to stay in England

England is part of the UK. Your right to stay in England depends on the outcome of your asylum claim.

If you left your home country because you were mistreated due to your race, religion, nationality, belonging to a particular social group, holding a political opinion, or because you're afraid you'll be mistreated for one of these reasons, you can apply for asylum in the UK.

The law states that asylum claims should be made as soon as possible after arriving in the UK.

Asylum: Means a place that is safe for you to stay. The word is used to explain a process for giving people permission to stay in the UK because they are at risk in the country that they come from.

Who will help you?

Solicitor: They will help you with your asylum claim. They must be registered with the OISC (Office of the Immigration Services Commissioner). Your  social worker who works for the local authority, should make sure you have access to a solicitor.

Your solicitor should listen to you and treat you with respect.

It is important that you share all important information with them to support your claim for asylum.

You do not have to pay for your solicitor. It is paid for by the government, but your solicitor does not report to the government.

Local authority: is also known as the council and is the organisation that looks after the part of England that you are in.

You are looked after by Staffordshire County Council and your Social Worker works for the same council.

Social workers:  Is a person who works for the local authority to provide help and support to children and adults in need. They should act in your "best interest" and will  assist you in getting the services that you are entitled to.

Foster carer: You may live with them if you are under 16 years old, they will look after you in their home. As well as providing day-to-day care for children and young people, they will advocate on your behalf, support you with your education, health and social wellbeing.

Doctor / nurse: Are medical professionals that will support you with all your health care needs. They will work with your social worker to make sure you are healthy. Healthcare in England is free of charge. 

Teachers:  Are the people you will be with whilst at school or college. They are responsible for your learning and keeping you safe whilst in their care.  You will be supported to enrol at school or college depending on your age. Your teachers will help you to learn English.

Personal advisor: All young people that are “leaving care” aged 16-18 will be allocated a personal advisor by the local authority. They will work with you to help you learn the skills you need to live independently. 

Interpreter: They will help you understand what is going on and ensure that you are understood also. They can support you in any meetings with your solicitor and in conversations with the home office, your social worker and support staff.

Advocate: Is independent to the council and provides support to a child or young person who is looked after. They can speak up for you, help ensure your views are heard and taken seriously, ensure your rights are respected and work with you to resolve any issues you may have.

Support / Key worker:  If you are 16 years old or older it is likely you will live in supported accommodation. There will be staff employed to help you understand how to live independently. One staff member may be asked to work closely with you to help and that person is called your key or support worker.

The asylum process

Welfare (small) interview

You will be invited by the Home Office to attend a welfare interview to check that you are ok. Your social worker will help you to make an appointment.

You will be asked some basic questions, this will include your name, your date of birth, your nationality, your ethnicity and your Religion. You don’t need to go into details about your asylum claim during this interview. You will also have your photograph and fingerprints taken and these will be kept on file by the Home Office.

Statement of evidence (SEF)

Your solicitor will do this with you. It must be completed in English and sent to the Home Office within 60 working days from the date you made your claim for asylum.

The SEF will ask questions about you, your family and your journey to the UK. The statement part is for you to talk about what has happened to you and what you are worried or afraid will happen to you if you had to leave the UK.

Anything you tell your solicitor is confidential and will not be shared without your consent. However the only time they can tell someone else what you have said is if it will cause you harm, someone else harm or there are threats of terrorism. 

Substansive (big) interview

Your “big” interview involves a Home Office caseworker asking you lots of questions about the reasons you have come to the UK. This includes your journey, which is how you got to the UK, your family and life back in your country of origin.

This interview allows the Home Office to find out more about you and the reasons why you are afraid or cannot return back home. They will already have some of this information from the SEF that you completed with your solicitor. They may want to ask you more details around some of the information you have already shared to make sure they understand everything fully. If you arrived in the UK without any documents or ID to prove what country you are from they may ask you questions about this, such as important landmarks, names of cities and the money that is used.

If you are under 18 your social worker, PA or support worker will attend the meeting with you as your responsible adult. If you are over 18 when your interview takes place you will not need a responsible adult but can request your PA or key worker to support you in some circumstances. Your solicitor may attend this meeting, however they are not allowed to answer any of the questions for you.

An interpreter will also be present to make sure you fully understand all the questions and the Home Office caseworker understands everything that you share.

This interview can be quite long, tiring and upsetting for you, it is important that regular breaks are given throughout by the Home Office. Your appropriate adult can request these for you.

After you've made your asylum claim

The decision from the Home Office can take many months, sometimes even longer. If you are worried you’ve been waiting too long for a decision, you should talk with your social worker or solicitor who can contact the Home Office for you.

When the Home Office has made a decision about your asylum, they will tell your social worker and solicitor what they have decided. Your case will be unique to you and there are various different outcomes that can be granted by the Home Office. If you are granted refugee status then how long you can stay in the UK will depend on how you travelled to the UK.

If you came directly to the UK from your country of origin you may be granted permission to stay in the UK for 5 years and you will be able to apply for indefinite leave to remain at the end of that time - this is called being a Group 1 refugee.

If you travelled through other countries that are considered safe and the Home Office do not accept that you were in danger then you will be considered a Group 2 refugee. You may then be granted permission to stay for 30 months (2 and a half years) and you can apply to have this extended before it finishes.

You would need to seek legal advice as to whether you can apply for indefinite leave to remain after 5 or 10 years.

If you are escaping dangerous circumstances rather than fleeing persecution specific to you, you may be granted Humanitarian Protection. The rules for this type of protection are the same as that for Group 2refugees where you will be given permission to stay for 30 months ( 2 and a half years ) at a time.

Your case may be different to what has been explained above, your solicitor is responsible for explaining all things legal with you as your social worker is not qualified to do this.

If your asylum claim fails or you do not agree with the decision you may be given the opportunity to appeal, your solicitor will help you with this. Your solicitor will talk to you about whether they can represent you for free in your appeal. Sometimes this is not possible to do because the chances of winning your case are not high enough.

If you can no longer appeal the decision you become what is known as Appeal Rights Exhausted (ARE) and your claim for asylum can go no further.

It is the responsibility of your social worker and personal advisor to talk to you about the possibility of this happening and ensuring that you know your rights, what the next steps are and who will help you.

It might be decided that you cannot stay in the UK and a decision will be made as to whether you can be returned to your country of origin safely. Your solicitor will advise you about this. If you do have to return home, travel arrangements will be made by the UK Government. This may not happen for a very long time after you are refused asylum. During this time it is the responsibility of the Home Office to provide you with housing and a small amount of money each week for food.

Age disputes / age assessments

If there are concerns about your age or reasons to believe that you look older or younger than the age that you have stated, you may need to be age assessed. This will be completed by two trained social workers and you should have an appropriate adult present throughout to look after you as well as an interpreter.

You will be asked lots of questions that may feel quite personal and this is because lots of information needs to be gathered from you to try and establish your age.  If you have documents to prove your age you’ll be asked to show these to the social worker.

It is important that you are treated as a child until a decision is made about your age. If the decision is that you are under 18, you will continue to be treated as a child. However, if a decisions is made that you are 18 years old or older, you will be treated as an adult and a different type of asylum arrangement will apply.

If this happens, it is your right to seek legal advice and challenge the decision, you should speak to a solicitor for advice about this. You have 3 months from the outcome of your age assessment to challenge this decision.

The outcome of the age assessment must be shared with you in a way that you understand using interpreters.

It is important that you get expert legal advice as quickly as possible if the outcome of the age assessment states an age that is different to the one you have provided.

Organisations that can help you

Refugee Council
0121 446 5118

Red Cross
0121 766 5444

0207 825 2505

The Children's Society
0300 303 7000

Migrant Help UK
0808 8010 503

Support Staffordshire
0300 777 1207

Voluntary Return Services
0300 004 202

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