Although some asylum seekers arrive in the UK by air, many travel over land or by sea for long periods before reaching the UK.
There are very few legal ways for people to openly come into the UK as asylum seekers and, in many cases, they may initially enter the country illegally.
Individual circumstances can vary widely. For example, people may enter the UK on a valid visa but later be unable return due to political changes in their home country, or they may be trafficked into the UK against their will.
Asylum applications can take months or even years to decide.
Asylum seekers may only have access to an allowance of £5.39 a day per person from the Home Office while awaiting a decision, often in the form of vouchers or on a pre-paid card. This can make it difficult to manage every-day demands such as food, prescriptions, sanitary products, transportation to appointments, fees for medical letters and phone credit.
During this period asylum seekers are at risk of health problems linked to poverty, such as malnutrition. Extended periods of stress and uncertainty can also lead to declines in mental health, including among patients who arrived in the UK in good mental health or who had no previous history of mental health problems.
Asylum seekers are able to register with a local GP at any point in the course of their claim. However, in practice, they often have difficulty accessing services.