Throughout our response to the coronavirus pandemic, we have been clear that we take the well-being of all those in the asylum system extremely seriously.
In these unprecedented times, we have adjusted 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.
- Asylum seekers receive accommodation and support whilst their asylum claims are being assessed and that has been the case throughout the current pandemic. This is paid for by the taxpayer so there is no cost to the individual.
- 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.
- A wide range of measures have been implemented to ensure guidance on social distancing and self-isolation is properly applied.
- We ensure that asylum seekers who would otherwise be unable to support themselves are provided with free, furnished accommodation. We also cover utility costs such as gas, electricity and water, and provide this cash allowance to meet their other essential living needs.
- We have ensured those individuals who are provided with accommodation can remain in their current accommodation. This remains under review.
- Those who would ordinarily have their support stopped because their claim has been determined will remain accommodated and supported.
- Historically, providers have used contingency accommodation (hotels) during peaks in demand and the contracts allow for this. Contingency accommodation is used across several sectors as emergency accommodation.
- We continue to consult local authorities about hotel use and where we place new asylum seekers entering the support system.
- Those placed in hotel accommodation receive free meals, toiletries and other support.
- All service users have access to a 24/7 Advice, Issue reporting and Eligibility service provided for the Home Office by Migrant Help where they can raise any concerns regarding accommodation or support services. In hotels, there is dedicated space for the resident welfare officer to work and daily visits conducted to every service user - if self-isolating they will be called by the welfare manger while on site. Welfare Officers are on site from 9am to 5pm.
- The Home Office communicates daily with accommodation providers around performance, delivery, and the welfare of our service users.
- Those who were already in the support system and accommodated in houses and flats will continue to receive a cash allowance to cover their other essential living needs. If they are accommodated in full board then all accommodation, utilities, meals and essentials are provided by the accommodation provider and a cash allowance is not paid.
- The weekly cash allowance provided to asylum seekers is reviewed each year to make sure it is sufficient. We recently announced an above inflation increase to the allowance.
- 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 have paused 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.