Asylum applications fell by 40% during lockdown - Refugee Council
August 27, 2020

Asylum applications fell by 40% during lockdown

Today the Home Office published the latest statistics on asylum and protection for year ending June 2020. This includes how many people claimed asylum in the UK, how many people were resettled or arrived via a family reunion visa, and the different outcomes of asylum decisions.

The statistics reveal that the Covid-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK asylum system. In the three months to end June 2020, 4,732 people claimed asylum in the UK, a 40% decrease on last year. No refugees were resettled during this period, as resettlement flights were suspended throughout lockdown, and just 131 family reunion visas were granted, a massive 94% drop compared to the previous quarter.

Covid-19 has led to an increase in the backlog of asylum cases, which means people are staying in the asylum system for longer. At the end of June 2020, 54,073 people were waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum. Of these, 38,756 (72%) had been waiting for more than six months, an increase of 57% from this time last year. The number of people receiving Section 98 support (initial accommodation) more than tripled, from 1,583 in June 2019 to 5,444 in June 2020.

In the year ending June 2020, the Home Office granted asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave to remain in 53% of cases, up from 44% in the previous year. In the same time period, 45% of asylum appeals were allowed (a record high).

In the year ending June 2020, the top five nationalities of people seeking asylum were Iran, Albania, Iraq, Eritrea and Pakistan.

Andy Hewett, Head of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said:

“The latest immigration statistics clearly reveal that, contrary to much of the mainstream media coverage this summer, the UK is not being inundated with asylum claims. In fact, asylum applications were down by 40% from April to June 2020 (year-on-year), and existing safe and regular routes to protection were heavily impacted as resettlement flights were grounded, whilst the number of family reunion visas granted to family members of refugees dropped significantly.  It’s absolutely critical that plans are put in place to enable resettlement and family reunion numbers to return to pre-covid levels.

We are concerned that the pandemic exacerbated the backlog of asylum cases, which means people seeking asylum are having to stay in the asylum system for long periods of time: the number of people waiting more than six months for a decision has increased by 57%. We will continue to call on the government to increase the asylum support rate, in line with the Universal Credit C19 uplift, allow people seeking asylum the right to work, and ensure that people awaiting their claim are housed in safe and appropriate accommodation.

Finally, it is worth noting that, while the Home Office attribute the increase in small boat crossings via the Channel to more Iranians claiming asylum , the latest statistics show that 66% of Iranian asylum seekers were granted protection by the Home Office at the initial decision stage (versus 53% for all cases). This clearly refutes claims that people crossing the Channel this summer were not genuine refugees.”