Top 20 facts about refugees and people seeking asylum

Today the Government has published its immigration statistics up until September 2018.

As we are all aware, the truth about asylum is often in short supply, with the same old myths and scare stories peddled again and again. At the Refugee Council, we believe it’s time to put that right.

Here are our top 20 facts based on these latest asylum stats.

1. The world is in the grip of one of the worst forced displacement crises ever. Over 68.5 million people around the globe have had to flee their homes – that’s like more than the entire British population having to leave. Millions have had to leave their country entirely and have become refugees. Fortunately most of us in Britain have grown up in safety, but if we were ever to become refugees, we’d all hope that another country would welcome us. 

2. It’s poor countries, not rich, western countries, which look after the vast majority of the world’s refugees. The UN’s Refugee Agency estimates that 85% of the world’s refugees are sheltered by developing countries.

Most refugees just move from one poor country to another. While the pictures we may see on TV perhaps make us think that most refugees are coming to Europe, this simply is not the case. In fact one in six people in Lebanon is a refugee. 

3. The dreadful scenes still being witnessed in the Mediterranean and across Europe are a symptom of this wider, global crisis. In 2018 so far, 82,100 people arrived in Europe via sea. Just under half were women and children.

4. Given the world is facing the greatest refugee crisis since the Second World War, comparatively few people make it to Britain in their search for safety. In the year ending September 2018, an estimated 613,200 people sought safety in Europe (down 16% on the previous year). Britain received 27,966 asylum applications from main applicants in that period.

5. Shockingly, by end of September 2018, 11,538 asylum applications had been waiting for longer than six months for an initial decision on the case. That’s an increase of 8% from the 10,707 in the previous quarter.

The total backlog in cases pending an initial decision totalled 24,213. Each one of these cases represents a person stuck living in limbo, anxiously awaiting news of their fate.

6. Britain is not Europe’s top recipient of asylum applications. In the year ending September 2018, Germany, Italy and France all received at least twice as many asylum applications as the UK. In Germany alone, a total of 160,600 asylum applications were made. Britain received around 6% of all asylum claims made in the EU during last year.

7. Britain offers no asylum visa. In fact, there are very few, legal ways for refugees to safely escape their country and claim asylum in another country. The truth is, when war breaks out, countries like Britain often close down refugees’ legal escape routes. Refugees don’t place their lives in smugglers’ hands because they want to. They do it because they often have no other choice.

This lack of safe and legal routes for refugees to reach safety and claim asylum has deadly results. Already this year 2,119 men, women and children have lost their lives during their desperate attempt to cross the Mediterranean Sea. Every death was a tragedy.

8. People who are seeking asylum make up a tiny proportion of new arrivals in Britain.  Today’s statistics show that 20.8 million non EEA nationals arrived in Britain in the year ending September 2018 – but just 0.13% of them were seeking refuge here.  Of course, not all people seeking asylum will be granted permission to stay in Britain.

9. World events often correlate directly with asylum applications; last year people were most likely to seek refuge here from the Middle East, desperate to escape on-going conflict and the murderous advance of ISIS. The top 3 countries of origin of people applying for asylum in Britain in the twelve months to September 2018 were: Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan.  

10. The British asylum system is extremely tough. Just 30% of initial decisions made in the year to September 2018 have been grants of protection (asylum or humanitarian protection). However, many refugees had to rely on the courts rather than the Government to provide them with the protection they need. The proportion of asylum appeals allowed over that time was 38%.

11. 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 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 family members in Britain. Sadly, this route is rarely used by the Government with only 19 refugees arriving via the scheme in the 12 months ending September 2018.

12. Of the children who arrived in Britain alone and under their own steam, 35% were granted asylum in the year to September 2018 down slightly from 36% in the previous quarter. A further 16% of separated 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 new applications from unaccompanied children was Eritrea.

13. In the twelve months up to September 2018, 60 children were locked up in immigration detention, despite a Government promise in 2010 to end the practice. 66% of the children who left detention were released, rendering their detention not only harmful but futile.

14. The UK Government has the power to detain people who are here seeking refuge. Today’s statistics show that in the last 12 months, 25,061 people entered detention in an immigration removal centre; among them many people seeking asylum. 54% were released back into the community rendering their detention pointless.

15. In the year to September 2018, only 27% of applicants from Sudan were granted protection at initial decision stage, down from 34% in the previous period.  In contrast to the declining initial decision grant rate, 64% of appeals made were successful. Given the relatively high success rate at appeal it may be that the information relied on by the government (country guidance) to make asylum decisions relating to Sudan is not robust enough. We suggest it is not a coincidence that the grant rate has declined whilst the appeal success rate soared after the country guidance changed.

16. The number of people arriving from Syria who are resettled in Britain stands at 13,961 since the scheme began. In September 2015, the then Prime Minister David Cameron promised to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020. That’s just 4,000 a year. Over 12 million people had been forcibly displaced from Syria by the end of last year, of whom 6.3 million are refugees.

17. The number of Syrians who have sought asylum in Britain since the conflict began stands at just 11,118. That’s just 0.17% of Syria’s refugees. Like most of the world’s refugees, very few Syrians come to Britain in their search for safety.

18. In the year to September 2018, just 725 non-Syrian refugees were resettled in Britain via the Gateway Protection Programme run in conjunction with the UN’s Refugee Agency (UNHCR).  Sadly, just 1% of the world’s refugees will ever be resettled which means many refugees face a long, uncertain wait to hear if they will ever be able to rebuild their lives in safety.

19. At the end of September 2018 49,536 people seeking asylum and their dependants were being supported by the Government. This figure has risen since 2012, but is still below the figure for end of 2003 when there were 80,123 asylum seekers being supported.

This does not mean asylum seekers live in luxury; far from it; people have no say in where they live and are often left to survive on around £5 a day.

20. In the year ending September 2018, 6,007 family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK (up 18%).