Failed asylum seekers may sometimes be held in detention until they can be removed from the UK. Detention is not automatic in all cases. There are a limited number of places available in detention centres and it considered by many to be undesirable to hold people in detention unless strictly necessary. In many cases failed asylum seekers will be given temporary leave to stay in the UK until their removal can be arranged.
Dealing With Failed Asylum Seekers
Failed asylum seekers will usually be able to remain in the UK until they have exhausted the appeal process. The case worker who dealt with the application will also oversee the failed asylum seeker’s departure from the UK. The case worker will inform him of any changes to the conditions of his continuing stay in the UK prior to his departure. A failed asylum seeker who might otherwise have remained at liberty could be held in detention if they breach any of these conditions.
The Process for Detention of Failed Asylum Seekers
Once an asylum seeker has received formal notice of the refusal to grant asylum they will usually be required to leave the UK. At any time after this notice has been received a failed asylum seeker may be detained by the immigration authorities without any additional warning. The authorities may also detain any family members of the failed asylum seeker.
There are currently 10 detention centres around the UK for failed asylum seekers awaiting deportation. The Home Office’s term for these is “immigration removal centres”. Most of these centres are run by private companies; a few are run by Her Majesty’s Prison Service.
The subject of detention centres has been controversial for a number of, sometimes conflicting, reasons. In some communities people have been reluctant to have a detention centre located in their midst because of the perceived dangers associated with having a large number of asylum seekers in the area. Many people object to detention centres as a matter of principal because the failed asylum seekers they house are not necessarily guilty of any crime. There have been allegations of ill-treatment of detainees and some centres have experienced unrest and rioting by their inhabitants.
There are currently approximately 2500 places available in immigration detention centres around the UK. The majority of these places are for single men only. Very few of the detention centres can provide accommodation for women or families. In 2007 alone nearly 17,000 people had their application for asylum refused. It is clear, therefore, that only a small minority of failed asylum seekers can currently be held in detention. The vast majority will be permitted to remain in the community because the government has no other way of dealing with them. This may increase the risk of failed asylum seekers disappearing from the immigration authorities’ view and remaining in the UK indefinitely.
Deportation of Failed Asylum Seekers
The government currently faces a huge backlog of failed asylum seekers who were due to have been deported when their application was refused. Deporting an individual can be a complicated process. Naturally the failed asylum seeker will often be reluctant to cooperate with the authorities. Airlines will refuse to transport individuals whose behaviour is threatening, dangerous or unduly disruptive to other passengers. Deportation may also be delayed if there are concerns about the failed asylum seeker’s welfare if returned to their own country.
The priority for arranging deportations will inevitably be to deport those who are held in detention – both because of the undesirability of detaining people and so that their places can be used by others.
The Fast Track Asylum Process for Those in Detention
As part of its aim to improve the efficiency of the asylum process the UK government intends to increase the number of places available in detention centres to about 4000. This would facilitate an increased use of the so-called fast track asylum process. Asylum seekers may be kept in detention from the moment they claim asylum until their application is decided. Those whose application is unsuccessful could then be more easily and quickly deported.