The incorporation into UK law of the protections that are guaranteed in the 1950 European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) has had a significant impact on the Immigration and Asylum system. As well as granting Asylum under the Refugee Convention, the Home Office has also for a long time recognised that there are many people who, although fall within the definition of ‘refugee’ are in need of protection. Therefore, in deciding whether to grant humanitarian protection, the Home Office took into account the UK’s international obligations other than under the Refugee Convention, for example, under the ECHR, the UN Convention against torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment etc
From 2nd October 2000, rights under the ECHR have been incorporated into domestic law by the Human Rights Act 1998 (HRA). The HRA requires public bodies, such as the Home Office, to act in accordance with the ECHR. This has had an important effect on the system for protection. In many cases, the reasons why a person wishes to remain in the UK are relevant both to a claim for asylum under the Refugee Convention and to rights under the ECHR.
Claims and appeals under both conventions are often made together because there are certain circumstances in which it may be decided that, although a person does not qualify as a refugee, they do qualify for protection, under, for example, Article 3 ECHR (prohibition against torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment).
In some cases, of course, the grant of status under a human rights claim may be completely different from any asylum question under the Refugee Convention. For example a person may allege that by removing them from the UK will separate them from family members with the right to remain here and therefore the government is in breach of Article 8 (family life).
Those allowed to stay in the UK as a result of the ECHR rights are therefore usually given a period of 5 years and are able to apply for indefinite leave to stay subsequently. Some are granted discretionary leave to stay for 3 years which can be extended by an application for further 3 years. At the end of 6 years they could apply for indefinite leave to remain in the UK.