Asylum in the UK

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

No, it does not. In the year ending September 2021, the UK received 37,562 asylum applications from main applicants only. 

In the year ending June 2021, EU countries have also seen a larger fall in asylum applications, receiving 418,495 first time asylum applications from non-EU citizens. The top nationalities of people applying for asylum were Syrian (75,615), Afghan (49,905), Venezuelan (19,235), Colombian (18,160), Pakistani (17,960), Iraqi (16,420), and Turkish (13,845).

In the year ending June 2021, Germany received the highest number of asylum applicants (113,625) in the EU+, followed by France (87,180) and Spain (67,405). When compared with the EU+, the UK received the 4th largest number of applicants (37,235). This equates to 8% of the total asylum applicants across the EU+ and UK combined over that period, or the 17th largest intake when measured per head of population.

Germany, France, Spain and Italy accounted for around 70% 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, and 73% of refugees displaced abroad live in countries neighbouring their countries of origin.

(Source:  Home Office,  EuroStat)

How many refugees are there in the UK?

According to UNHCR statistics, at the end of 2020 there were  132,349  refugees, 77,245 pending asylum cases  and 4662  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 3.7  million, followed by Colombia with 1.7 million.

(Source:  UNHCR 2020  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 2021.

The top five countries of nationality for asylum applications (from main applicants) were:  Iran  (6,002), Eritrea  (4,412) Albania  (4.010),  Iraq (3,042) and Syria (2,303).

(Source:  Immigration statistics, year ending September 2021)

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 £39.63 per person, per week, which makes it £5.64 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). 

1,171 people were resettled through these schemes in the year to September 2021 (up from 353 the previous year, a figure affected by the pandemic). 312 arrived through the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), 12 through the Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme, 770 through the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) and 77 through Community Sponsorship.

 Since the first arrivals under the new Resettlement scheme in March 2021, 775 refugees have been resettled in the UK via the UKRS.

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

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 September 2021 6,542  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 September 2021, a total number of 21,365 individuals entered the detention estate (up from 12,967 in the year ending March 2021), there were a total of 1,410 people held in the detention estate. This is recorded by the Home Office as being up from 1033 when compared to March 2021. These figures must be viewed in the context of the Covid-19 Pandemic. (Source:  Home Office How many people are detained or returned?)