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How to receive a political asylum in Britain

In the end of March 2015 it became known that Vladimir Ashurkov, a former Executive Director of the Foundation on tackling corruption and a supporter of the opposition leader Alexei Navalnii, received political asylum in Great Britain. Let us figure out what is needed for receiving the status of refugee.

What is a political asylum?

This is a right to reside provided by a state to a citizen of another country for protecting him from politically motivated persecution. The right for asylum is laid down in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Geneva Convention of 1951.

To whom political asylum is granted?

Most of the western countries do not distinguish refugees who received asylum based on political grounds in a separate category. This is only one of the grounds for receiving status of refugee. There are others, namely: persecution on the basis of race, gender, nationality, religion, social status, military conflicts.

How to receive political asylum in Great Britain?

One should first arrive to Great Britain – to ask for asylum from the territory of another country is not allowed. Then one should make an application to the Office of the British Border Service as soon as possible – if one fails to do it immediately, allowance can be taken away. In the Office an applicant will be referred to a certain employee who will be leading the case. It all starts from a simple interview: an employee verifies personal data of the applicant, checks if the applicant attempted to get asylum in Great Britain or other countries of the European Union before. After a few weeks the applicant should come to another interview, during which he should explain why he is afraid of the persecution on the basis of political grounds in his own country. Essentially, this is the main stage of the whole process. If one has documents confirming that fears of persecution are well-grounded – they should be provided. Sometimes the applicant is sent to the deportation center and detained – then his application will be considered in an advanced mode, that is in one week.

How British authorities take decisions on granting asylum?

Often no documents are submitted by the applicants; therefore the employees of the Border Service have mostly oral information. Employees pay attention on the discrepancies in the stories of the applicants, they try to compare their words with information obtained from other refugees from this country. If the applicant tried to receive asylum in the past, authorities check previous decisions – this is crucial. Behavior of the applicant is also taken into consideration, as well as any records of the violations of the law, for instance, forgery of the entry documents. Asylum can be denied if it turns out that having left own country the applicant have been in the democratic countries, but did not ask asylum there. Employees have certain guidelines on how to conduct interview and take decision. Experts consider that the Border Service often treat the issue too formally; instead of delving into stories of people they search for the relevant paragraph in the guidelines to deny the request. 

What benefits refugee status gives?

Benefits are the residence permit, the possibility to work and receive state assistance. Also, a refugee can bring his family – a spouse and under-aged children.

Is refugee status given forever?

No, it is given for five years. If during this time circumstances change – for instance, if in the country from where the person escaped democratic regime will take over, the refugee status can be withdrawn. After five years, the status is checked in any case and renewed upon the availability of grounds.

How British asylum procedure differs from the procedure in other countries?

In general, the procedure is similar. In any case, it is in the European Union and the USA. Nevertheless, some details of the procedure in different countries vary – even within the European Union. In order to compare the details, one can use a special service on the website: http://www.asylumineurope.org/comparator

Details on the asylum procedure in the USA can be found in the section ‘Questions and answers’ on the website of the Citizenship and Immigration Service: http://www.uscis.gov/faq-page/asylum-eligibility-and-applications-faq

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