Championing the rights of refugees - Refugee Council

Championing the rights of refugees

We stand up for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum – exploring the issues that affect them, informing the public, and working for fairer government policy.

Photo by Andy Aitchison

The UK’s approach to refugees and people seeking asylum needs to improve.  Laws, policy and government guidance are often unsympathetic to refugees, complicated and unfair. This causes needless suffering to people who are often vulnerable and traumatised.  It needs to change.

As an organisation that provides specialist help and advice to refugees and people seeking asylum, we have an in-depth understanding of their needs and challenges they face. This makes us well-placed to advise on what a fair and effective system should be.


Nearly 25% of people granted refugee status wait 4-6 weeks or more to receive documents they need to get accommodation or a source of income.

28 days

But they are only allowed to stay in asylum support accommodation for 28 days, meaning that many become homeless with no income, just at the point when they should be relieved that they are going to be safe.

How we work for a fairer system for refugees and people seeking asylum

Research, policy and advocacy

Our research explores emerging issues for refugees and provide evidence for change. Using insight from those who access our services, it reveals where support and policy can be strengthened.

We work with decision-makers to create and influence policy. We share the insights from our research which is based on the work of our services with government departments. The aim is to shape policies that make refugees’ lives more bearable and help them to integrate and contribute to society in the UK.

Campaigning and awareness

To create large-scale change, we galvanise public support for refugees through timely and effective campaigns. As well as campaigning on specific issues – such as making it easier for refugee families to be reunited – we help to increase knowledge and understanding and reduce confusion about refugees and people seeking asylum.

Working closely with the media, we set the record straight, offering insight, facts and analysis at key moments.

Our achievements

New safeguards for women seeking asylum at risk of abuse

Following our research report 'Safe from Violence in the UK?' the Home Office revised their guidance on how to respond to reports of abuse from people seeking asylum. As a result of our work, women seeking asylum at risk of abuse are now able to access specialist refuge accommodation.

Court of Appeal ruling age assessment policy as unlawful

As a result of our evidence, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Home Office’s policy on deciding the age of young people seeking asylum is unlawful and must be rewritten, as it fails to ensure that children are not mistakenly treated as adults.

MPs vote to reunite families

Following our campaign, thousands of people contacted their MPs to urge them to make it easier for refugee families to be reunited in the UK. As a result, in March 2018 131 MPs voted in favour of a new law that would do this

Welfare for refugees with disabilities

We challenged an out-dated law denying refugee children access to disability benefits. As a result of our pressure, the courts ruled that this discrimination was unlawful. Resettled refugees with disabilities can now access the support they need.

20,000 Syrians to be resettled

We campaigned for the government to resettle more Syrian refugees and recognise their status as refugees. We won – resettled Syrian refugees can now access university and travel to other countries to see their families. And the government has committed to resettle 20,000 Syrians by 2020.

A fairer process for new refugees

Biometric Residence Permits and National Insurance numbers are both needed to access benefits, open a bank account, or get a job. But over 20% of refugees wait six weeks or more to receive them. Thanks to our lobbying, the Home Office now prints National Insurance numbers on the permits. And the 28-day stay in asylum accommodation for refugees who are granted status now starts when permits are received and not before.

Better support for pregnant women

After our ‘Dignity in Pregnancy’ campaign, the Home Office revised guidance that helps asylum-seeking women who are pregnant or new mothers find better support.

Children kept out of detention

We worked with a law firm to achieve a High Court ruling making it unlawful to detain young people having decided they’re adults based on their appearance. This is crucial to keeping vulnerable lone refugee children out of detention with adults.

Current issues

We are currently working to create change in the following areas affecting refugees and people seeking asylum.

Campaigning to reunite more families with their loved ones, including calling for separated children to have the same rights to be with family as adults do.

Calling for changes to government policy and practice to stop refugees becoming homeless and destitute after receiving their refugee status.

Calling for the protection and equal treatment for refugee women who are victims of violence and discrimination in UK.

Ensuring that children seeking asylum are not incorrectly treated as adult because they may look older, and receive the protection and care they are entitled to.

Campaigning for better policies to help refugees rebuild their lives and thrive.

Calling for a consolidated programme to resettle refugees from all regions, post-2020.

Working to improve the way that unaccompanied children are treated by the asylum process.

Making it easier for refugees to access good quality legal advice.

Working with others in calling for an end to the ban on employment for people seeking asylum.

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