Asylum applications made in the last 12 months

There were 26,903 asylum applications (main applicants only) in the UK in the year ending March 2021, a 24% decrease from the previous year, although the latest figure will have been impacted by COVID-19.

In the year ending March 2021, the top five countries of origin of people seeking asylum were Iran, Albania, Eritrea, Iraq and Sudan.

In terms of the number of asylum applications per head of population, the UK ranks 17th highest in Europe.

As the UK’s involvement in the Dublin II arrangements ended , the government now makes decisions to seek another country’s agreement to process the claim on an individual basis.

Having laid new rules and guidance that came into force at the very end of 2020 the Home Office now issues ‘notices of intent’ telling the applicant it is making  enquiries of other countries through which the person seeking asylum has travelled.

In the first three months of 2021, 1,503 people were issued with notices of intent. None has been transferred to another country under the inadmissibility rules.

40% of initial decisions made in the year to March 2021 have been grants of protection, meaning they have been awarded refugee status or humanitarian protection.  A total of 7,832 people were granted protection in year ending March 2021 as a result of an asylum claim, a 62% reduction from the previous year where 14,338 people were granted protection.

The Home Office also grants other forms of leave to people who have claimed asylum, as well as grants of protection through the resettlement programmes. Over the last 12 months, 8,185 people were granted status in the UK through the asylum system or resettlement programmes.  This is 57% lower than the previous year, the drop in grants is due to fewer initial decisions being made on asylum applications (19,786 decisions in the year ended March 2021 compared with 37,052 the previous year), as well as the pause to resettlement activity after March 2020, both a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The proportion of asylum appeals allowed in the year to March 2021 was 47% up from 45% the previous year.  The appeal success rate has been steadily increasing over the last decade (up from 29% in 2010).

 The quality of decision making is often poor, with many refugees having to rely on the courts to award protection following an appeal of the Government’s initial decision. The appeals process can be complex and lengthy, with people seeking asylum having to wait months for their appeals to be heard.

Thousands of people have to wait years for a final decision on their claim, meaning they are left in limbo and unable to plan for their futures.

The backlog in cases awaiting an initial decision continued to rise to another record high.  At the end of March 2021, 66,185 people were waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum. Of these, 50,084 (76%) have been waiting for more than 6 months, up from 31,516 this time last year. Whilst there has been a steady rise in this backlog for the last few years, the impact of Covid-19 on the decision making process has exacerbated this further.

Each one of these represents a person anxiously awaiting news of their fate, with no idea how much longer they will be forced to live in poverty.

At the end of March 2021* 61,241 people seeking asylum were being supported by the Government. This figure has started to drop after continually rising since 2012. (at the end of December 2020 it was 64,041)

The latest figures show that there were 10,294 individuals in receipt of support under Section 98, nearly 3 times higher than the same time in the previous year (2,577).

People seeking asylum are banned from working and are provided with just over £5 per day from the Government to cover the costs of their basic necessities. Could you live on just £5 per day?

*This includes people supported under Section 95, Section 4 and Section 98 of the Immigration Act 1999.


of applications granted asylum or protection at initial decision stage in the year ending March 2021

The UK Government has the power to detain people who are here seeking refuge. Sometimes this even includes children. There is no maximum time limit in place for people held in detention, meaning people are held indefinitely.

The latest statistics show that there were 1,033 people in detention in immigration removal centres at the end of March 2021; among them were 538 people seeking asylum. This equates to a 15% increase from the previous year.

In the same period, there were 12,840 occurrences of people being released back into the community, indicating flaws in the Government’s detention regime.

Despite a Government promise in 2010 to end the practice of detaining children, there were 28 occurrences of children entering immigration detention by the end of March 2021. A child has been held in detention at the end of March 2021.

It is not just adults and families who come to the UK in search of safety; unaccompanied children, some as young as under 14 years old, also seek Britain’s protection.

In the last 12 months, there were 2,044 applications from unaccompanied children, 42% fewer than the previous year; accounting for 8% of total asylum applications.

Of the children whose claims were decided in the last 12 months, 78% were granted asylum.

A further 17 unaccompanied children were granted short term leave to remain which expires after 2.5 years, leaving them uncertain and anxious about their futures.

The top country of origin for applications from unaccompanied children in 2020 was Sudan.

The moment someone receives a positive decision on their asylum claim should be one of celebration and relief, an end to instability, and the start of a bright future where they are able to establish new lives in the UK. Instead, many newly-recognised refugees experience homelessness and/or destitution, right at this point.

The Home Office provides accommodation on a no-choice basis and subsistence support of around £5 per day for people seeking asylum if they would otherwise be destitute. But once they are awarded status, this support stops after just 28-days. Faced with a cliff edge and no support to find new housing, open a bank account, and secure income, among other activities needed before being evicted, many refugees are at significant risk of homelessness and/or destitution.

Just 1% of the world’s refugees will ever be resettled anywhere, which means many refugees face a long, uncertain wait to hear if they will ever be able to rebuild their lives in safety.

Over 13 million people have been forcibly displaced from Syria since the start of the conflict, of whom more than 6.6 million are refugees.

In February 2021, the UK met its target to resettle 20,000 refugees under the Vulnerable Person Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). In total, 20,319 people were resettled under the VPRS between March 2014 and February 2021 (this includes 239 resettled before the scheme was upscaled and who are not included in the 20,000 commitment).

Following the completion of the VPRS target, the Government consolidated the VPRS, VCRS and Gateway schemes into a single new UK Resettlement Scheme.  The first refugees began to arrive under the new UKRS in Q1 2021, and at the end of March 2021 25 people were resettled under the UK Resettlement Scheme.

Resettlement arrivals to the UK were temporarily suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020 and the latest stats show that as a result of this, no refugees were resettled during the three month period April-November 2020

 The UK Government also resettles refugees through two other programmes. In the year to March 2021, no refugees from conflict zones across the world were resettled in Britain via the Gateway Protection Programme. 12 refugees were resettled via the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme in the same period of time.

War and persecution often divide refugees from their families but there are few straightforward, legal ways for refugees to safely join loved ones in Britain.

One of the few safe and regular routes for refugees to join their loved ones in the UK is via refugee family reunion visas. In the year ending March 2021, 4,973  family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK, an 8% decrease compared to the previous year.

The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the number of visas granted in April-June 2020 fell to just 131, and is now started to recover with 1,551 visas issued in January-March 2021.

The Family Reunion rules are incredibly restrictive.  Only spouses and dependent children are eligible to apply for family reunion visas. People who have been granted protection in the UK may be alone, distraught and worried about the safety of their family who may still be in danger. Even unaccompanied children are not allowed to apply for their parents to join them in the UK. That is why we are campaigning to bring #FamiliesTogether.

Another way in which refugees could be allowed to travel to the UK safely is through the Mandate scheme. This enables refugees in other countries to join their families in Britain. Sadly, this route is rarely used by the Government with no refugees arriving via the scheme in the twelve months ending March 2021.


the number of people awaiting an initial decision for more than 6-months

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