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2.2 The key provisions of the Act in respect of asylum seekers include:
• Establishing an effective and efficient end-to-end asylum process, incorporating induction, accommodation and removal centres.
• Expediting the asylum process, improving contact management and reducing opportunities for abuse of the system.
• Strengthening the integrity of the UK’s borders by ensuring immigration controls are sufficiently robust to exclude those who are an immigration or security risk, but to be efficient, flexible and responsive so as to speed the entry of the many people who come to the UK legitimately.
2.3 The key asylum provisions in more detail are:
Support and Assistance
• Requires asylum seekers living in the community to report regularly or risk losing government support.
• Curtails access to support for those who do not claim asylum at the earliest opportunity, or do not provide a full and accurate account of their circumstances
• Introduces measures to deal with “benefit shopping”, by preventing those who have rights of residence and to support in other EEA states from approaching local authorities in the UK for support and housing.
• Allows the Home Office greater scope to fund support packages for those returning home voluntarily and to fund international refugee resettlement projects.
Immigration and Asylum Appeals
• Simplifies and streamlines the appeals process, strengthening the provisions of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 that prevent the use of multiple appeals to delay removal.
• Ends the right of in-country appeals for those who are clearly unfounded asylum or human rights claims. There is a rebuttable presumption that claims from residents of 10 EU Accession countries are clearly unfounded. A power is included to add to the list of countries for which this presumption applies. There is still a right of appeal, but it must be exercised from abroad.
• Requires the appointment of a person to monitor powers to certify asylum and human rights claims as clearly unfounded.
• Introduces a statutory review process to replace judicial review for those appellants who are refused leave to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal and want to challenge that decision Caring for Dispersed Asylum Seekers in the Administrative Court. The new process provides a faster final review of the refusal, which maintains the fairness of the legal process while preventing it from being used simply to cause delay.
• Introduces a power to provide for a closure date to prevent multiple adjournments of appeals.
• Stops last minute appeals against purely administrative decisions, (such as removal directions), which implement a decision already made. Where there is a genuine and substantial change of circumstances, a fresh appeal will remain possible against a new decision.
Detention and Removal • Simplifies the process of removing those who have no right to stay in the UK.
• Repeals the unimplemented automatic bail hearing provisions in Part 3 of the Immigration & Asylum Act 1999, but leaves in place provisions for applying for bail.
• Provides powers that support a comprehensive induction programme, which ensures that applicants are aware of what will happen to them during the asylum process and of their responsibilities as well as their rights.
• Makes it clear that refugees or asylum seekers who commit serious criminal offences and are a danger to the public, are not entitled to the protection of the Refugee Convention.
3. NASS Support Arrangements Context
3.1 The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 removed the responsibility of providing support from local councils and particularly those in the home counties by establishing a separate system of support which became operational in April 2000 and is operated by NASS. NASS disperses eligible destitute asylum seekers in need of accommodation to areas where there is a ready supply of accommodation away from London and the South East.
Dispersal of asylum seekers
3.2 Once an asylum seeker has been assessed as eligible for NASS support, language and circumstances are taken into consideration before allocating accommodation in a dispersal area.
NASS dispersal accommodation is procured in areas that either have an established ethnic minority community or are able to sustain a new ethnic group and where voluntary and community infrastructures are in place or can be developed.
The role of the consortia
3.3 In recognition of the fact that no single agency has all the expertise or facilities to meet the needs of large numbers of asylum seekers, dispersal is co-ordinated through a system of local authority-led consortia. There are 11 such consortia in the UK. A grant of £105,000 was available to each consortium for the financial year 2002/03; this was to cover the development of the ‘enabling’ role, and is subject to a Memorandum of Understanding drawn up by NASS.
There may be more than one consortium in any given region but Home Office funding would be shared. The London Consortium acts as a referral house to transfer people into the regions under the interim arrangements (pre-NASS cases).
3.4 Following a review on dispersal in October 2001, which argued that NASS could not deliver its services effectively from the centre and that more needed to be done to strengthen relationships with stakeholders in the regions, Home Office Ministers took the decision to regionalise the organisation.
3.5 As a result, from April 2003 the process of regionalising NASS’s housing contract management, outreach and investigation services commenced, as well as enhancing representational presence in the Regions. Over 400 regional posts have been or will be created as a result in Belfast, Glasgow, Birmingham, Leeds, Bristol, Leicester, Cardiff, Manchester, Croydon, Newcastle, Dover and Peterborough.
Who is supported under the NASS arrangements?
3.6 Since 8 January 2003 when Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 came into force, NASS provides support to all newly arrived, destitute asylum seekers with
dependant children under 18. Those without children receive NASS support if they are considered to have applied for asylum as soon as reasonably practicable.
• Anyone in Kent who was receiving benefits, and who received a refusal of their asylum claim after 17 April 2000, and appeals against that decision.
• Anyone in the rest of the UK who was receiving benefits, and who received a refusal of their asylum claim after 25 September 2000, and appeals against that decision.
Dependants 3.8 The asylum support regulations (Statutory Instrument 2000, No. 704) define a dependant of
an asylum seeker as someone whom:
• is his/her spouse;
• is under 18, or was at the time of the claim, and is the asylum seeker’s or spouse’s child, and is dependent on him/her;
• is under 18, or was at the time of the claim, and is a member of the asylum seeker’s or spouse’s close family;
• is under 18, or was at the time of the claim, and had been living as part of the asylum seeker’s household either since birth, or for at least 6 of the 12 previous months;
• is over 18, but due to a disability, is in need of care and attention from the asylum seeker’s household;
• had been living with the asylum seeker as an unmarried partner for at least two of the three years prior to the claim for support;
• had been part of the asylum seeker’s household receiving support under section 22 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995, or Article 18 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 immediately before the introduction of the asylum support regulations;
• is being considered as a dependant of the asylum seeker for immigration purposes.
Caring for Dispersed Asylum Seekers
Who will qualify for support?
3.10 An asylum seeker will be eligible for support if he/she is destitute, or likely to become so within 14 days. An asylum seeker who is refused support by NASS will have the right of appeal to a support adjudicator, unless the decision to refuse support was made under Section 55 or 57 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. Those who have the right of appeal will not be eligible for support during the appeal. Appeals must be lodged within two working days, unless there are exceptional circumstances.
3.11 While receiving NASS support, asylum seekers must inform NASS of any changes in their circumstances, such as finding (asylum seekers are not normally entitled to work)/losing employment, marriage, becoming separated from a partner, children leaving school or home, an extra person joining their household, pregnancy or a stay in hospital. A full list of conditions was published in the Asylum Support Regulations (Statutory Instrument 2000, No.
704). Notifying NASS of any changes such as those above is a condition of support and an applicant may risk prosecution or losing their support if NASS do not receive the necessary notification.
Support 3.12 Cash payments are made via a smart card which is replacing the previous receipt book payment method.
Both enable the applicant to obtain cash from a post office. Where accommodation is provided, it is fully furnished and includes linen and cooking utensils. Utilities and council tax are paid centrally. Children supported by NASS are eligible to free school meals. (Schedule 14, Section 117 of Immigration and Asylum Act 1999). Once an asylum seeker has been receiving NASS support for six months they can apply for request a £50 ‘single additional payment’.
This is for each person in the household and is intended to cover the cost of clothing or any other items that need replacing.
3.13 If an asylum seeker has applied for accommodation as well as support, this is offered on a nochoice basis. NASS considers a person’s physical needs but not their preference for a particular area. Applicants are dispersed to ‘cluster areas’ around the UK, following government policy. If he/she decides not to take up the offer of accommodation for any reason – such as it being too far away from their community, family or solicitor – no alternative support is offered. People opting for the cash payments only option receive cash with no other assistance offered towards rent or any other living costs.
Asylum seekers with care needs
3.15 An asylum seeker who has been determined, through a formal local authority care needs assessment, to have care needs that have arisen for reasons other than by destitution, must be supported and accommodated by the local council under Section 21(1)(a) of the National Assistance Act 1948. NASS cannot provide support to such asylum seekers.
3.16 NASS policy clarifies issues around split or mixed households, i.e. when an asylum seeker who arrived after 3 April 2002 to join their spouse/partner who is already supported either by a local council or through the welfare system.
• When a new asylum seeker joins an asylum seeker who is in receipt of benefits, he/she can be added to the benefit claim as a dependent. If a local council already houses the first person as a priority need case, the authority must accommodate the entire household. However, if the first person did not qualify for housing under homelessness legislation, the arrival of the second will not alter this, even if he/she fits into a ‘priority need’ category.
• When a new asylum seeker joins an asylum seeker who is supported by a local council, he/she qualifies as a dependant under regulation 2 (1) of the interim support regulations. The council must provide support for both.
• When a new asylum seeker joins a non-asylum seeker who is in receipt of benefits, he/she cannot be added to the benefits claim. He/she can apply to NASS or the local council for assistance as necessary. NASS will take the level of the spouse’s benefit into account and provide top-up support if appropriate. The same housing conditions apply as above.
Section 4 Support (formerly ‘Hard case support’)
3.17 NASS is administering support that should assist some of the people who have had a final refusal of their asylum claim, have no further right of appeal, but who are unable through physical impediment to leave the UK. Single adults and couples in this position have no statutory right to support. (Families with children continue to be supported under whichever system previously applied to them until they are removed or fail to comply with removal directions set by the Immigration Service). The Home Office emphasises that Section 4 support does not exist as an alternative support system to which there would be automatic recourse once other support ceases; refused asylum seekers are expected to leave the UK unless exceptional circumstances prevent this. Section 4 support consists of full board accommodation with no recourse to financial support, it is away from London.
NASS guidelines state that “a person is eligible for section 4 support if:
• His/her claim for asylum has been refused;
• He/she has been supported by NASS or, by a local council under Schedule 9 to the Act;
• He/she is no longer an asylum-seeker (within the meaning of Part VI of the Act);
• He/she appears to the Home Secretary to be destitute; and,
• He/she has no other avenue of support (e.g. friends, family, NHS and Community Care Act);
• He/she is willing to leave the UK as soon as he is able to do so.
3.18 Each case is considered on its merits, but section 4 support will not normally be made available
to a person unless:
Caring for Dispersed Asylum Seekers
Unaccompanied Children 3.19 Unaccompanied asylum seeking children under the age of 18 are not eligible for NASS support. They remain entitled to provisions of services under S17(6) or Section 20 of the Children Act 1989 from their local council.