Asylum in the UK

Does the UK have more asylum-seekers than most countries?

No, it does not. In the year ending September 2020, the UK received 31,752 asylum applications from main applicants only. 

Over the same period,  asylum applications to other EU countries have also seen a slight increase. In the year ending March 2020 (the latest period for which data is currently available), the highest number of first-time asylum applicants was registered in Germany with 155,295 first-time applicants followed by France with 129,480, Spain with 128,520 and Greece with 81,465.

These four Members States account for around three quarters of all first-time applicants in the EU-27. These figures include  all asylum applicants, not just main applicants (i.e. including children and other dependents). World-wide  around  85%  of all refugees live in developing regions , not in wealthy industrialised countries.

(Source:  Home Office,  EuroStat)

How many refugees are there in the UK?

According to UNHCR statistics, at the end of 2019 there were  133,094  refugees, 61,968 pending asylum cases  and  161  stateless persons  in the UK. The vast majority of refugees – 4 out of 5 – stay in their region of displacement, and consequently are hosted by  developing countries. Turkey now hosts the highest number of refugees with 3.6  million, followed by Pakistan with 1.4 million.

(Source:  UNHCR 2019  Global Trends  Report)

Where do asylum-seekers in the UK come from?

Amongst adults, Iran was the top nationality claiming asylum in the UK in the year ending September 2020.

The top five countries of nationality for asylum applications (from main applicants) were:  Iran  (4,318), Albania  (2,820) , Iraq (2,618) and Eritrea  (2,241).

(Source:  Immigration statistics, year ending September 2020)

Amongst Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children (UASC) the largest numbers of applications in the year ending June 2020 came from Iranian (456), Vietnamese (420) and Afghan (409) nationals, who together accounted for 45% of applications by unaccompanied children.

(Source:  Immigration statistics, year ending June 2020)

What is a bogus asylum-seeker?  

There is no such thing as a bogus asylum-seeker or an illegal asylum-seeker. As an asylum-seeker, a person has entered into a legal process of refugee status determination. Everybody has a right to seek asylum in another country. People who don't qualify for protection as refugees will not receive refugee status and may be deported, but just because someone doesn't receive refugee status doesn't mean they are a bogus asylum-seeker. 

Let us remember that a bogus asylum-seeker is not equivalent to a criminal; and that an unsuccessful asylum application is not equivalent to a bogus one Kofi Annan

What benefits do asylum-seekers receive in the UK?

The majority of asylum-seekers do not have the right to work in the United Kingdom and so must rely on state support.

Housing is provided, but asylum-seekers cannot choose where it is, and it is often ‘hard to let’ properties which Council tenants do not want to live in.

Cash support is available, and is currently set at £37.75 per person, per week, which makes it £5.39 a day for food, sanitation and clothing.

(Source: Home Office)

How many refugees have been resettled to the UK?

Resettlement is the transfer of refugees from a country where they have initially sought asylum - often in the same region as their country of origin - to a third state which has agreed to admit them. It is a life-changing durable solution for refugees whose life, liberty, health, or human rights are at risk in their country of refuge, or for whom relocating to another country is their only hope of being reunited with their family. 

Refugees can be resettled to the UK via the Gateway Protection Programme, the Mandate Scheme, the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS), or the Syrian Vulnerable Person's Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). 

3,560 people were resettled through these schemes in the year to June 2020. The Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) accounted for over three-quarters (2,956) of those resettled in the UK in the year ending June 2020. In the year ending June 2020, a further 201 people were resettled under the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (VCRS). Of those resettled under the VPRS and VCRS in this year, 104 refugees were resettled under the Community Sponsorship scheme.

Since the scheme began in July 2016, 449 refugees have been resettled by community sponsor groups. Find out more about resettlement here.

Please Note that none of the above refugees were resettled in Q2 2020.

From March - June 2020 UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM) called a temporary suspension on resettlement travel for refugees because of COVID-19. Since then it is positive to note that several countries have resumed resettling refugees, though, in many countries travel restrictions remain in place and other logistical complexities need to be overcome before resettlement can resume.

The UK has not yet resumed its resettlement programme and UNHCR hopes it will do so as swiftly as the situation allows. Since the Government announced the expansion of the scheme on 7th September 2015, including the target of resettling an additional 20,000 refugees under the scheme by 2020, 19,768 refugees have been resettled in the UK.

From 2020, once the 20,000 VPRS refugees have been resettled, the UK has announced plans to resettle around 5,000 of the world’s most vulnerable refugees in the first year of operation of a  new resettlement scheme, the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS). This new scheme will consolidate VPRS, VCRS and the Gateway Protection Programme into one global scheme. (Source:  Immigration statistics, year ending June 2020)

What is subsidiary or humanitarian protection?

Subsidiary protection can be given to people who do not meet the 1951 Convention’s legal definition of a refugee but are still in need of international protection.

Across the EU, the Qualification Directive provides subsidiary protection for those facing the following threats if returned to their country: (1) the death penalty or execution; (2) torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; or (3) threats from an international or internal armed conflict.

The UK uses the legal term humanitarian protection to meet this Directive. Applicants can also be given 'discretionary leave to remain', a form of temporary permission which is unlikely to be more than three years.

Can refugees reunite with their families in the UK?

Yes. In certain circumstances refugees in the UK are permitted  to reunite with family members who are living elsewhere. 

In  the year ending June 2020, 6,066  Family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK.

However, current rules are restrictive for refugees applying to reunite with family members in the UK. This is due to a narrow definition of who qualifies as a family member, restrictions on refugee children being able to reunite with their parents,  and a lack of legal support for refugee family reunion applications. 

Find out more about the  #FamiliesTogether campaign.

Are there any asylum-seekers or refugees in detention in the UK?

In the year ending June 2020, a total number of 19,128 individuals entered the detention estate. This is 21% fewer than the previous year. At the end of June 2020, there were a total of 698 people held in the detention estate. This is recorded by the Home Office as being down from1,727 when compared to June 2019, a reduction of 60%. These figures must be viewed in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic. (Source:  Home Office How many people are detained or returned?)