There is a lot of advice on visa and refugee applications, but in this blog, we will talk about the 5 risks for refugees in the UK.
It is difficult to imagine being called a refugee, with all the word implies. But for those fleeing Ukraine to the UK, it can be a necessity.
If you’re a refugee planning to seek refuge in the UK, there is strong evidence that the public welcomes you with open arms. By 17 March, over 150,000 UK citizens had signed up to sponsor Ukrainian refugees.
That’s all for the good. However, on the side of caution, here are 5 risks for refugees in the UK that we think you ought to know about:
1. Application process can be daunting
The first of our 5 risks for refugees in the UK is fairly obvious. The application process and wait times are daunting. There is also a small time frame between the time you arrive in the UK till the time you fill in an application for asylum when you will be classified, for the lack of better words, as an “illegal immigrant.”
This phrase “illegal immigrant” is highly pejorative and used by certain newspapers and commentators to criticise migration into the UK. However, in Ukraine’s case, those commentators have so far been broadly supportive.
Even when your case is heard, you’ll have to go through multiple rounds of screening and interviews to finally get approval on your status. In some cases, your application can be rejected and you’ll have to reapply. Within this time frame, the UK allows you a weekly allowance of £37.75 and some accommodation to stay.
2. There’s a huge amount of data sharing involved
To be considered for your application, you will need to provide a lot of personal information, including things that can be triggering such as what brought you to the country and what makes you afraid to return back.
However, even when you’re granted stay, under the “hostile environment policy,” you will need to provide information such as where you stay, where you work, where your children go to school, access to medical records, etc.
Of the 5 risks for refugees in the UK, this is probably the most frequent you will experience.
3. Your personal devices can be seized anytime
The UK, along with other countries such as Denmark, Austria, Norway, Germany, etc., have laws set in motion that allow them to take personal devices such as mobile phones to extract information from them. All data, including contact information, photos, messages and saved files can be accessed.
Barring the fact that this is a huge invasion of privacy, one cannot look past the fact that information on social devices can be inaccurate. Though this has been a subject that has been brought to light, not much has been done about it. As such, it is perfectly legal for law enforcement to collect data from refugees’ phones and personal devices.
4. Social media is a fair game
Much like mobile phones, social media has also been seen as a fair game. That is to say, the UK government can have a sneak peek into your social life on digital platforms to observe your likes, dislikes, and topics you comment on. This process is termed as SOCMINT (Social Media Intelligence).
Privacy International Org published a report titled “Is your Local Authority looking at your Facebook likes?” discussing this topic in heavy detail.
5. Understanding the schemes and terminology can be tricky
Because the official route to formal refugee status is so arduous, it’s actually best to avoid it if you can. Here are a few ways that Ukrainians can apply to live in the UK instead of applying for refugee status:
Ukrainian Family Scheme
The Ukrainian Family Scheme is only applicable if you have an family member presently settled in the UK and you are accompanied by them (and are presently residing in the UK).
Sponsorship Scheme by the UK for those without family
Under this scheme, you can apply to stay in the UK if someone from the UK can become a sponsor. Charities, communities, and individuals can all participate to allow a safer route for Ukrainian citizens.
Unfortunately, if you are having difficulties fitting the eligibility requirements for the above schemes, then applying through the traditional UK visa application route would be the last option.
Under these schemes you and everyone else might consider you to be a “refugee”, but you won’t officially have refugee status. You will though avoid points 1 – 4 above.
How to reduce the 5 risks for refugees in the UK
Although we can’t comprehend the gravity of loss faced by those fleeing their homes, we can help where we can.
We provide general immigration and visa advice to anyone moving to the UK. For Ukrainian refugees we can offer pro bono (free) advice, which we determine on a case by case basis.
We hope this article was a good resource. However, if there are any issues that we missed, or any legal assistance you need, feel free to reach out to us.
Produced by Juwaria Merchant 30/03/2022
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