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Who are Asylum Seekers and Refugees?

The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees was the first international law to define the term 'refugee', and to outline how refugees should be treated. The Convention defines a refugee as someone who is forced to leave their country and seeks protection in another country because of:

"A well-founded fear of persecution in their own country for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion".

It was drafted in response to the horrors of the Holocaust, when fleeing Jewish refugees were denied asylum by many countries, and because of the millions of people who became refugees in Europe during and after World War II.  One hundred and thirty four countries signed the agreement stating that anyone, anywhere, who is forced to flee persecution in their own country, will have their claim to asylum heard fairly, and receive protection if they need it. An asylum seeker is someone who has asked the British government for protection under international law and is awaiting an outcome on their application.

Where do asylum seekers and refugees come from?

The countries from which asylum seekers and refugees come change depending on the current situation. Countries include Eritrea, Sudan, Iran, Syria, Pakistan, Iraq, Somalia, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Myanmar (Burma), Democratic Republic of Congo and China, to name but a few. There are people from over 44 different countries currently resident in Oldham.

Most asylum seekers arrive in the area under the national dispersal arrangements following severe disruption in their lives. Some have experienced traumatic loss. They are exposed to an unfamiliar culture, and may have difficulties accessing services when they do not ‘know the ropes’. They may also experience discrimination in various forms.

Refugees will have been granted one of the following forms of protection:

  • Refugee Status with Indefinite Leave to Remain (ILR)
  • Refugee Status with Limited Leave to Remain. Most refugees receive only 5 years leave to remain
  • Humanitarian Protection can be granted for up to 5 years if an applicant does not qualify for refugee status but faces a real risk of serious harm
  • Discretionary Leave can be granted for up to three years for family reasons and medical cases (e.g. claims under Article 8 and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) and for some UASCs
  • Discretionary Leave UASCs are granted Discretionary Leave if they do not qualify for any other status and if satisfactory arrangements cannot be made for their reception in the country of origin. This is granted up to 17.5 years old (18 before April 07) or up to 3 years leave to remain, whichever is the shorter period of time
  • Refugees have recourse to public funds

Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children (UASC)

For guidance on the support, advice and welfare that is available to children who claim asylum please visit

Refugee Settlement Protection

Refugees granted 5 years leave to remain will need to apply one month before it is due to expire to remain in the UK.  Their right to remain in the UK is at risk should they not apply within the timeframes. Please see the GOV.UK guidance on settlement protection.