1990s

Somali refugees 1995The 1990s saw changes to the origins of those claiming asylum, as world events triggered large scale population movements. Numbers of people seeking asylum from around the globe continued to grow, while particular resettlement programmes emerged to deal with the ongoing crisis in the Balkans.

  • In November 1993, the Refugee Council together with the British Red Cross set up a programme to receive and settle Bosnian refugees. The Government agreed to allow 1,000 Bosnian men, who had been detained in Bosnian Serb camps, to come to the UK with their families (a total of 4,000 people). Reception centres were established in various parts of the UK to arrange initial accommodation and support for the refugees prior to moving into more independent living arrangements.
  • In 1995, a further 500 Bosnian refugees were offered temporary refuge in the UK, plus some 20 medical evacuees. However the majority of refugees from Bosnia did not arrive under the programme: around 14,000 Bosnians applied for asylum independently after the war in Bosnia broke out.
  • Violence in Kosovo at the beginning of 1999 led to the largest exodus of refugees of the decade. Some 900,000 people were forcibly expelled from Kosovo. As part of a contingency plan, the UK government asked the Refugee Council and its three partner agencies, the British Red Cross, Refugee Action and the Scottish Refugee Council, to organise a reception programme for Kosovan evacuees. The evacuees were placed into available accommodation in clusters around UK. By the time the war ended, 4,346 refugees had arrived in the UK.
  • As months went on, the pressure on all evacuees to return increased, and by July 2000 55% of the evacuees had done so. As with Bosnians, the majority of Kosovan Albanians in the UK arrived independently.
  • The Refugee Council worked to alleviate some of the consequences of the 1996 Asylum and Immigration Act, campaigning on behalf of destitute clients to establish their entitlements under the 1948 National Assistance Act, and opening the Karibu centre in Vauxhall in 1996.
  • The only national service of its kind, the Children’s Section began operations in 1994, working to improve the lives of separated children in the UK. At this time around 3,000 separated children arrived in the country each year, seeking safety from countries that were experiencing conflict.