An asylum seeker is a person who has left their country seeking protection from persecution or human rights violations, and has formally applied for asylum in another country, but whose claim for refugee status has not yet been determined. Other jargon is unpacked below.

If you are an asylum seeker or refugee needing medical help or help with your mental health visit The Haven.

The Haven is a service for asylum seekers and refugees who:

  • are in the Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire area
  • are newly arrived in the UK and seeking asylum, or have recently gained refugee status
  • have come to join a refugee family member as part of the ‘family reunion’ immigration scheme
  • asylum seekers who have been transferred to Bristol from elsewhere in the country and have complex health problems

People should bring proof of their asylum application, this can be either their letter from the Home Office or their Asylum Registration Card (ARC).

The Haven is a specialist primary healthcare service for asylum seekers and refugees who are new to Bristol, North Somerset and South Gloucestershire. Our team of staff consists of a GP and nurses who will assess and meet the initial health needs of asylum seekers and new refugees.  We also help people to access health services and other services they need.

The Haven can offer:

  • comprehensive and holistic health assessments
  • medical management of current health problems
  • vaccinations and screening for transmittable diseases Free Girl Asylum illustration and picture
  • help for people  to register with a local GP practice
  • information about how to use the NHS
  • confidential interpreting during consultations

We regularly work with people who have experienced traumatic events. We have pathways and can sign-post to other helpful services such as counselling and refugee support organisations.

You can find out how to get in touch with The Haven by visiting their website here


Some Commonly Used Terms


Free Asylum Politically illustration and picture

Discretionary Leave to Remain

This is intended to cover situations where there are exceptional compassionate grounds or compelling reasons to grant leave to stay in the UK (e.g. medical grounds or human trafficking). Home Office guidance for staff states that this form of leave should be granted sparingly. A humanitarian crisis or emergency is an event of critical threat to the safety, health, security or wellbeing of a community or a large group of people.

Humanitarian Protection

This is a type of immigration status where a person is not at risk of individual persecution, but they would be at risk of serious threat or harm if they returned to where they are from because of general violence (e.g. war or internal conflict).

Human Rights

In line with broad international acceptance, the UN Refugee Agency defines this as the inalienable rights to which a person is entitled merely for being human. Human rights are built on underlying principles of universality, equality, and non-discrimination.

No Recourse to Public Funds

A condition imposed on people who are subject to immigration control in the UK whereby they are not able to claim most benefits and housing assistance that are paid by central government unless an exception applies.


According to the 1951 Refugee Convention, a refugee is someone who is unable or is unwilling to return to their country of origin owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion. In the UK, a person is only recognised as a refugee by law if the UK government has issued them with refugee status documentation. Refugee resettlement The selection and transfer of refugees from a country in which they have sought protection to a third country which has agreed to admit them as refugees where they can rebuild their lives.10 7.Shortage occupation list A list created by the UK government setting out the posts where it considers there is a shortage of labour and will allow migrants (including asylum seekers) to work in these roles, subject to conditions including how long they have been in the country. Signing The process by which those who have applied for immigration status and who have not had a positive decision have to regularly report to their local Home Office reporting centre or a police station.11 Temporary refugee permission When the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 first came into law, temporary refugee permission gave a person only 30 months of leave to remain in the UK, with an option to settle (live permanently in the UK) after 10 years of lawful residence. As of July 2023, this type of permission was discontinued.


Asylum seekers and refugees face many barriers to achieving and sustaining good mental health, as their pre- and post-migration experiences place them at higher risk of experiencing mental health problems. Pre-migration experiences may include torture, war, imprisonment, physical assault, sexual assault, loss of livelihood, and losing close family or friends.21 Trauma may also be experienced on migrants’ journeys to the UK, which are sometimes long and perilous. In addition to the distress these experiences cause, they can exacerbate existing mental health conditions and lead to the development of new ones. Exposure to violence and trauma increases migrants’ risk of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD),22,23 they are more likely to experience depression,24,25 and anxiety disorders,26 and are a high-risk group for suicidal ideation.27 Internationally, around 30% of refugees and asylum seekers have been found to experience PTSD, with the f igure for those experiencing depression also around 30%.25.

Please do seek help if you feel you are included in this group.