As we respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we want to be very clear that we take the wellbeing of all those in the asylum system extremely seriously.
These are unprecedented times and we are adjusting asylum processes and procedures where necessary and appropriate to adapt to these changes.
The Government is committed to supporting everybody through this crisis and nobody should find themselves destitute.
We have also put in place a range of measures to specifically support asylum seekers affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
- Like everyone else in the country, asylum seekers are being asked to stay where they are to help fight against coronavirus.
- We have worked with Public Health advisors throughout the coronavirus outbreak to inform a national approach, adjusted to account for local concerns. We remain in regular dialogue with public health officials.
- We continue to ensure that those who are unable to support themselves are moved to free accommodation in order to meet out statutory duty.
- Those placed in hotel accommodation receive free meals, toiletries and other support.
- We continue to consult local authorities about hotel use and where we place new asylum seekers entering the support system.
- Those who were already in the support system and accommodated in houses and flats will continue to receive cash payments to cover their other needs.
- They will also be able to remain where they are even if their asylum claim is resolved, instead of moving on to other arrangements, as would normally be the case.
- We are reviewing the level of the cash payments, as we do every year.
- We recognise the challenge of managing coronavirus within our accommodation estate, while ensuring that people can continue to access essential services. A wide range of measures have been implemented to ensure their guidance on social distancing and self-isolation is properly applied.
- Those asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are supported by the Home Office on application, rather than local authorities.
- As part of this Government’s response to coronavirus, we have ensured those individuals who are provided with accommodation can remain in their current accommodation until the end of June and this will be kept under review.
- As a temporary response to coronavirus the Home Office has increased screening facilities across the UK to facilitate asylum applications. This will allow asylum claims to be made in a safe way that adheres to social distancing guidance.
- This is a proportionate response to the risks posed by coronavirus, and is in line with Government guidance.
- The Asylum Intake Unit (AIU) in Croydon will continue to operate as normal but will additionally be supported by limited operations in Glasgow, Belfast, Liverpool, Leeds, Solihull and Cardiff. These new locations will enable asylum seekers to attend appointments without having to travel long distances.
- We are confident these will be to meet the demands of asylum registrations within the geographical areas and will not operate a 5-day service. There is no need to go further to introduce online appointments.
- Asylum seekers including failed asylum seekers are entitled to asylum support in line with travel restrictions due to coronavirus. There is no need for this cohort to call on any funding outside asylum support.
- We have temporarily cancelled all face-to-face asylum interviews due to the coronavirus outbreak. We are continuing to work on establishing an alternative process to support interviewing and interpreting and once finalised, will be in a position to restart interviews when it is safe to do so.
- We are continuing to make decisions on cases where we have already interviewed the claimant, or we have sufficient information to allow us to make a decision. We now have an agreed process to enable the service of decisions via email which has been shared through the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA) and the Law Society.
- We will pause decision making on any case where medico-legal reports (MLR) are delayed due to medical professionals who complete them being asked to work on the coronavirus response for the NHS.
- We have contacted representatives through ILPA and the Law Society to advise that all information in relation asylum claims be sent in via email rather than post or fax. This is to ensure that the most up to date information can still be received by the Home Office and linked to the relevant files effectively during this time.