Today sees the release of the latest statistics on asylum and protection for year ending March 2020. This includes how many people claimed asylum in the UK, the different outcomes of asylum decisions, interesting information about countries of origin and other features of the asylum system.
At the end of March 2020, 51,905 people were waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum. Of these, 31,516 (61%) have been waiting for more than six months, an increase of 68% from this time last year. The vast majority of people waiting for their asylum claim survive on a daily asylum support allowance of just £5.37 per day, and are banned from working.
Record numbers of people were granted asylum in the UK in the year to March 2020. 54% of initial decisions were grants of protection, meaning they have been awarded refugee status or humanitarian protection. This is a 39% increase from this time last year. Humanitarian protection means the Government accepted that the risk of harm to those people, if they were returned to the country from which they fled, is so clear that they need to stay here to be safe.
The proportion of asylum appeals allowed in the year to March 2020 was 45%, which is the highest it has been in the last decade. 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.
Given the many armed conflicts and human rights abuses occurring the world over, we see many different nationalities seeking asylum here. The top countries of origin in the year ending March 2020 for people seeking asylum in the UK were Iran, Albania, Iraq, Pakistan and Eritrea.
The number of refugees resettled in the UK now stands at 20,007.This means that the UK has met its target of resettling 20,000 refugees by 2020. The government has committed to resettling a further 5,000 refugees from 2020-21 through a new single, consolidated scheme, but further details are needed so that planning can begin. The resettlement arrivals to the UK are temporarily suspended because travel is not possible due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Responding to today’s statistics, Judith Dennis, Policy Manager at the Refugee Council, said:
“We are pleased that more than half of the people who sought safety in the year to March 2020 were granted protection by the Government at the initial decision stage. This demonstrates that more correct decisions are being made in the first instance. We also welcome the record high number of decisions being overturned at appeal.
“However, we remain deeply concerned that more and more people seeking protection in this country are being forced to wait for months, or in some cases years, for news of their fate. It is unbearable to think about what life is like for these people, living in constant limbo and fear, ending up in poverty and being banned from finding work. It is unacceptable that in modern Britain so many human beings are being forced to survive with such a basic lack of dignity.
Since lockdown began, we have called for a £20 weekly uplift, in line with Universal Credit, to the £35.75 weekly budget that most people seeking asylum rely on. It is extremely difficult to stay healthy on such a tiny budget during a global pandemic. It is barely enough to pay for food, never mind hand gel and face masks.
We are pleased that the Government has met its target of resettling 20,000 refugees by 2020, and urge the Government to make a strong commitment to increasing safe and regular routes through which people can find safety in the UK.”