34,354Asylum applications made in the last 12 months
There were 34,354 asylum applications made in the UK in the last 12 months, a 22% increase on the previous year, and the highest since June 2016. The number of asylum applications equates to a tiny fraction of non-EEA nationals arriving in the UK.
In the year ending September 2019, the top five nationalities of people seeking asylum were Iran, Iraq, Albania, Eritrea and Pakistan.
48% of initial decisions made in the year to September 2019 resulted in a grant of protection, meaning they were awarded refugee status, humanitarian protection or an alternative form of leave and allowed to remain in the UK.
We welcome the fact that over the last 12 months, 19,480 people were granted protection in the UK through the asylum system or resettlement programmes, the highest number in a single year since 2003.
The proportion of asylum appeals allowed in the year to September 2019 was 43%, a slight increase on the previous year.
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 total backlog in cases pending an initial decision increased to 35,043 at the end of September 2019 up from 31,884 at the end of June 2019. Of these, 20,054 (54%) had been waiting for more than 6 months.
Each one of these cases represents a person anxiously awaiting news of their fate.
At the end of September 2019, 51,062* people seeking asylum were being supported by the Government. This figure has continually risen since 2012.
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 necssities. Could you live on just £5 per day?
* This includes people supported under Section 95, Section 4 and Secton 98 of the Immigraon Act 1999.
48%of applications granted asylum or protection at initial decision stage
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 in the last 12 months, 24,441 people were put in detention in an immigration removal centre; among them, 13,882 people seeking asylum. This is a rise of 8% in the number of people seeking asylum entering detention.
60% of those detained were released back into the community, indicating flaws in the Government’s detention regime.
In the same period, 76 children were put into immigration detention, despite a Government promise in 2010 to end the practice. Again, a majority (60%) of the children who left detention were released, rendering their detention not only futile but harmful.
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 3,546 applications from unaccompanied children, 27% more than the previous year; accounting for 10% of total asylum applications.
Of the children who arrived in Britain alone and under their own steam, 63% were granted asylum in the year to September 2019, up from 48% in the previous year.
A further 187 of 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 from July to September 2019 was Afghanistan.
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 12 million people have been forcibly displaced from Syria since the start of the conflict, of whom more than 6.3 million are refugees.
In September 2015, the then Prime Minister David Cameron promised to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 – just over 4,000 a year. The number of people arriving from Syria who are resettled in Britain now stands at 18,252 since the scheme began. The government has now committed to resettling another 5,000 refugees from 2020-21 through a new single, consolidated scheme, but further details are needed so that planning for that can begin.
The UK Government also resettles refugees through two other programmes. In the year to September 2019, just 664 non-Syrian refugees were resettled in Britain via the Gateway Protection Programme. 637 refugees were resettled via the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme in the same time period.
War and persecution often divides 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 September 2019, 6,035 family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK, a 2% increase compared to the previous year.
Yet these schemes are incredibly restrictive. Only spouses and dependent children 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 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 only 14 refugees arriving via the scheme in the twelve months ending September 2019.