The Home Secretary David Blunkett yesterday announced that asylum seekers who can give a ‘credible explanation’ of how they arrived in the UK within three days of applying for asylum will be considered to have made their claim “as soon as reasonably practicable” under section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Those who claim asylum after being in the country for more than three days will generally not be eligible for support under section 55.
In response to the announcement, Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“This is a welcome step in the right direction, and should mean that many asylum seekers who would otherwise have faced a long cold winter without food or shelter will have a bed for the night.
“There is no evidence to suggest that Section 55 is acting as a deterrent, in fact the proportion of asylum seekers applying ‘in country’ – that is, after they have passed through the port of entry – remains at a similar level as before the legislation was implemented¹. What’s more, people that claim ‘in country’ are as likely as those who claim at a port to be recognised as refugees in need of sanctuary.
“The Government should go further and repeal this policy altogether.”
The measures came into force on Wednesday 17 December 2003. The Home Office is currently training staff in light of the policy change and section 55 interviewing and decision making has been suspended until Monday 22 Deccember 2003.
The Home Office is expected to issue a press statement on the policy change shortly.
Notes to editor:
1. The proportion of applications made in country in the third quarter of 2003 was 72%, compared to 68% for 2002 when there was no restriction on support. For more information go to the Home Office website for Home Office asylum statistics.