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Asylum Seekers And Refugees

Mission Statement

St Helens Council, working alongside various charities and external agencies, thrives to make the borough a safe place for refugees and asylum seekers to live.

What is the difference between an asylum seeker and a refugee?

An asylum seeker is someone who is seeking international protection but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. A refugee is someone who has been recognised under the UN 1951 Refugee Convention relating to the status of refugees to be a refugee.

The Syrian Vulnerable Person Relocation Scheme

Syrian refugees will be dispersed under the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation (VPR) Scheme. This scheme prioritises help for survivors of torture and violence; women and children at risk; and those in need of medical care. The United Kingdom Government works with the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees to identify suitable cases.

Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme

Due to the humanitarian crisis in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, vulnerable children can be at risk of exploitation, may be subjected to child labour or child marriage. The Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme offers one of the only safe routes to resettlement. The Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme is available to children and their immediate family members. Identified by the United Nations as being most in need, they are resettled to the UK from refugee camps and other unsafe environments across the Middle East and North Africa.

Asylum Dispersal Programme

Asylum claims in the United Kingdom are processed by the Home Office’s UK Visa and Immigration division.

While an asylum claim is being processed, the individual seeking asylum (the asylum seeker) receives support under arrangements set out by UK Visa and Immigration; this includes legal aid, accommodation and financial support.

Accommodation may be provided through one of the UK’s Immigration Removal Centres, or through controlled housing agreements under the Asylum Seeker Dispersal Arrangements. In the North West of England, including St Helens, dispersal arrangements are facilitated by a specialist housing provider, Serco.

Commitment to Asylum Seekers and Refugees

St Helens Council aims to ensure asylum seekers and refugees are supported while settling into the borough community and receive appropriate access to local services. This will be achieved by:

  • Creating and maintaining locally coordinated arrangements to support effective dispersal to a home that meets local housing standards
  • Supporting Merseyside Police to respond to hate crime or anti-social behaviour and with measures to promote social cohesion
  • Maintaining pages on its website to signpost asylum seekers and refugees to guidance, support and advice services

Locally Coordinated Asylum Seeker Dispersal Arrangements and the Responsible Bodies

  • Assessment of asylum claim - UK Visa and Immigration
  • Identification of potential properties - Serco
  • Checking suitability of property - St Helens Council/Merseyside Police/St Helens Clinical Commissioning Group
  • Placing of asylum seeker in suitable property - Serco
  • Provision of housing and welfare support - Serco
  • Provision of refugee resettlement support - Refugee Action
  • Provision of health care - NHS
  • Provision of education for asylum seeker families with children - St Helens schools
  • Supporting asylum seekers with opportunities to volunteer within the community - Faith, Voluntary and Community Sector

Multi-Agency Forum (MAF)

Agencies meet once every quarter in the MAF to share any updates in their services or any concerns they might have. The purpose of the MAF is to identify issues and put strategies into place to tackle those issues.

Our St Helens Community Grants

Grants are made available to support local community projects or initiatives that work to support social cohesion in St Helens. A total of £40,000 funds projects delivered in St Helens for up to one year that address any of the following themes:

  • Language
  • Health and Wellbeing
  • Communications, Culture and Social Connections
  • Hate Crime

Useful Links

An person within the asylum claim process (commonly known as an Asylum Seeker)

  • No right to work in the UK
  • Housed under Asylum Seeker Dispersal arrangements
  • Supported under Asylum Seeker Dispersal arrangements (cash 70% of income support)
  • Restricted rights to volunteer
  • May use the NHS

A person who has been granted Refugee Status (a successful Asylum claimant)

  • No longer supported under Asylum Seeker Dispersal arrangements
  • Full rights to work in the UK
  • Full rights to live in the UK
  • Full rights to volunteer, subject to Disclosure and Barring Scheme
  • May apply for state welfare and benefits
  • May use the NHS

A person with leave to remain on Humanitarian Grounds (an Asylum claimant whose home country is deemed too unstable or dangerous for them to return to)

  • No longer supported under Asylum Seeker Dispersal arrangements
  • Full rights to work in the UK
  • Full rights to live in the UK
  • Full rights to volunteer, subject to Disclosure and Barring Scheme
  • May apply for state welfare and benefits
  • May use the NHS

A person refused Asylum but agreeing to leave the UK (an unsuccessful Asylum claimant)

  • No right to work in the UK
  • Housed under Asylum Seeker Dispersal arrangements
  • Supported under Asylum Seeker Dispersal arrangements (Vouchers for certain goods at restricted outlets)
  • Restricted rights to volunteer
  • May use the NHS

A person refused Asylum but unwilling to leave the UK (an unsuccessful Asylum claimant)

  • No financial, housing or other support under Asylum Seeker Dispersal arrangements
  • No right to work in the UK
  • No right to state housing support
  • No right to state welfare or benefits
  • No recourse to public funds
  • Restricted rights to volunteer
  • NHS Emergency Services Only

The criteria for refugee status are set out in the UN 1951 Refugee Convention. Under Article 1(A)2, the term “refugee” applies to any person who:

“...owing to well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it.”

Refugees are defined by three basic characteristics:

  • they are outside their country of origin or outside the country of their former habitual residence;
  • they are unable or unwilling to avail themselves of the protection of that country owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted; and
  • the persecution feared is based on at least one of five grounds: race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion.

A refugee has the same rights as any other citizen, apart from the right to vote.

The term “asylum seeker” refers to a person who has applied for asylum, but whose refugee status has yet to be determined.

Until an asylum claim is determined, an asylum seeker in the UK has limited or restricted rights.

  • Where an asylum claim is proven the person is granted refugee status.
  • Where an asylum claim is refused, the “refused asylum seeker” has no leave to remain in the UK.
  • Under certain circumstances an asylum seeker may be granted leave to remain on humanitarian grounds

An unaccompanied child seeking asylum in the UK (under the age of 18) is supported by the State.

Some asylum seekers are dispersed within the UK whilst their claim is being processed. To find out how this is arranged in St.Helens visit our Asylum Seeker Dispersal Arrangements page.

NB A person seeking asylum is different to an economic migrant, the latter is a foreign national who has permission to work in the UK.  

NB A person seeking asylum is not an illegal immigrant, the latter has no right to be in the UK