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Section four support

If your claim for asylum has failed and you can't make any further appeals then you should apply to the UK Border Agency for section four support until it is possible for you to leave the country. This page explains what section four support is and how you can apply for it.

What is section four support?

Section four support (also known as hard case support) is full board accommodation that the UK Border Agency makes available to failed asylum seekers. It will only be available to you if your claim for asylum has been refused and for some reason you are unable to return to your country of origin. This might be because of a physical reason such as illness or pregnancy, or because there is no safe way for you to travel back home.

If you are offered section four support you will be given somewhere to sleep and three meals a day, but no financial support at all. You could be housed anywhere in the country and will have no say in the location or type of accommodation you receive. If you are moved to a new area you should phone the Scottish Refugee Council (SRC) and find out where your nearest advice centre will be.

Will I be given section four support?

Section four support will only be offered to you and your family if:

  • you are 'destitute', and
  • the UK Border Agency is sure that you are willing to leave the UK and return to your home country.

What does 'destitute' mean?

To be classed as destitute you must be able to show that you either have nowhere suitable to live or not enough money to meet your essential needs. Your essential living needs only include things like food and basic clothing. 'Luxurious' items such as toys, entertainment and extra clothes cannot be included.

For more information on whether the UK Border Agency is likely to class you as destitute, read the page on eligibility for asylum support.

Do I have to return to my home country?

Before the UK Border Agency will offer you section four support it also has to make sure that you are willing to leave the UK and return to your home country. You might be asked to sign a statement saying that you will co-operate with any orders for you to leave the country. In addition, you must fall into one of the following categories:

  • You are doing all the things you can reasonably do to put yourself in a position where you are able to leave the country. This might include getting all your travel documents together and complying with the instructions the UK Border Agency gives you. OR
  • You can't leave the UK because you are ill or unable to travel for medical reasons, for instance because you are very sick or heavily pregnant. OR
  • The UK Border Agency believes there is no safe way of getting you back to your country. This might be the case if you have to fly through a war zone or travel through an unsafe part of your home country. OR
  • You have applied for judicial review of a decision relating to your claim for asylum. Your solicitor will be able to provide you with evidence of your application for judicial review if you are in this situation. OR
  • You need support to prevent your human rights from being breached. This might be the case if without section four support you would end up living on the streets with no money or food. For more information you should contact the Scottish Refugee Council or Positive Action in Housing.

Why might my application fail?

If you applied for asylum on or after the 8 January 2003 then you will only be offered section four support if you made your claim for asylum as soon as you possibly could after you arrived in the UK. If you didn't apply for asylum as soon as possible after you arrived in the country then the UK Border Agency might refuse to give you section four support. When it is deciding whether you made your application as soon as you could, the UK Border Agency will consider the following things:

  • whether you claimed asylum within three days of your arrival in the UK, or
  • whether you told the truth about why your claim was late.

If the UK Border Agency refuses to give you section four support because you didn't make your claim for asylum as soon as possible after you arrived in the UK then you might be able to make an appeal to the Asylum Support Tribunal on the ground that your human rights have been breached (see 'can I appeal against a section four decision' below).

This is because being made to sleep on the streets is sometimes seen by the courts as against your right to be protected from inhuman and degrading treatment. You should discuss this matter with the Scottish Refugee Council and mention the cases of Adam, Limbuela and Tesema. Appeals are not always successful and the result will depend upon your exact situation and the facts of your case.

Why else might support be refused?

The UK Border Agency won't give section four support to certain groups of people. It won't usually offer you support if you fall into any of the following categories:

  • you have failed to follow instructions to leave the UK
  • you are an EU national
  • you have refugee status in another country.

How can I get section four support?

To apply for section four support you should fill out a section four request form and send it to the UK Border Agency. You should apply as soon as you can because if the UK Border Agency receives your application within 21 days of your current support being stopped, they will assume that you have no other way of accessing money or accommodation. This will make the UK Border Agency more likely to grant you section four support.

If your support was stopped a long time before you apply for section four support then the UK Border Agency will assume that you have another way of supporting yourself and that is the reason you didn't apply for support sooner. This could make them less likely to accept your application for support.

You should approach the Scottish Refugee Council or a migrant helpline for help in filling out your section four request form. They will help you with the form and provide a translator if you think you need one. The SRC will also be able to give you detailed advice about what to do if you want to challenge the government's decision on your asylum claim.

Can my support be stopped?

If the UK Border Agency decides that you qualify for section four support then you will be provided with full board accommodation until you can leave the UK and return to your home country. Your support will only be stopped before then if you break the UK Border Agency rules by doing any of the following things.

Behaving in an antisocial or violent way

This might happen if you harass your neighbour or commit a criminal offence.

Breaching a support requirement

For instance, if the UK Border Agency tells you that you must report to them once a week and you fail to do this, your support could be stopped

Failing to stay in the accommodation the Home Office gives you

The UK Border Agency can stop your support if you don't stay in the accommodation you're provided with, or if you're away from it for a long period of time. If you have to leave the accommodation urgently then you should get in touch with the Scottish Refugee Council and explain the situation. They will give you advice on what to do and how to get in touch with the UK Border Agency.

Not following UK Border Agency instructions about leaving the country

For instance, if you don't get your travel documents together after having been told to do so.

Can I appeal against a section four decision?

If you make an application for section four support but your application is rejected, you can challenge that decision. You can do this by making an appeal to the Asylum Support Tribunal (AST). You can also appeal to the AST if the UK Border Agency withdraws your section four support before you leave the UK.

You don't have very much time to make an appeal. Your appeal form has to be received within three days of you discovering that your application has been refused or your support has been stopped. For help and advice you should get in touch with the Scottish Refugee Council and make it clear that you want to make an application to the Asylum Support Tribunal.

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