Facts about asylum-seekers

What is asylum?

Asylum is protection given by a country to someone who is fleeing persecution in his or her own country. It is given under the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (PDF download).

Also the UK is a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights which prevents the UK sending someone to a country where there is a real risk of exposure to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Council of Europe, November 1950: European Convention on Human Rights UK Home Office information

Asylum Seekers

Where they come from and who takes them  

Refugees from Ukraine

The European Asylum Report Office (EASO) 2016 Annual Report

In 2016 more than 1,291,000 third country nationals applied for international protection in the EU, almost double the number compared to 2014 and the highest number since EU level data collection began in 2008.

The highest number of applications came from: Syria, Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The main receiving EU countries were Germany, Italy, France, Greece and Austria.

In 2016 1,148,680 first instance decisions and 228,155 final decisions on their cases were issued.

At the end of 2016 more than 1,133,250 persons were awaiting a final decision on their asylum application in the EU, seven per cent more than the previous year.

The ongoing crisis in Syria posed a key challenge to the EU in 2016 accounting for 26% of all asylum applications. Germany alone received 750,000. (Economist July 29, 2017)

Additional information from EASO

How many refugees come to the UK?

In 2022 up to November 1 nearly 40,000 people have crossed the Channel in small boats.

Top three countries of origin of asylum seekers in the UK: Eritrea, Iran, Pakistan

1194 Syrians were resettled under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme.

Additional information from Migration Observatory 

and the UK Refugee Council websites

What proof do applicants need to get accepted?

The Asylum Directorate, part of the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), at the Home Office, has the task of handling the asylum process.

To obtain asylum you have to be recognised as a refugee.  A refugee is a person whose circumstances meet the criteria of Article 1(A) of the Refugee Convention.

Article 1(A) defines a refugee as someone who ‘has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.’

Humanitarian Protection (HP) and Discretionary Leave (DL)

These two categories were introduced on April 1, 2003 for some applicants who do not qualify for asylum status. Those granted this status are entitled to work and to receive public funds. 

HP will be granted to anyone who is unable to demonstrate a claim for asylum but who would face a serious risk to life or person from: the death penalty, unlawful killing, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. Serious criminals, terrorists etc will be excluded from these provisions.
DL covers a range of other situations.

More about Discretionary Leave (PDF download)

What help do they get to settle in this country?

Asylum seekers who qualify for Home Office asylum support are provided with “no-choice” basic accommodation, in dispersal areas, and a weekly subsistence cash payment. Some asylum seekers choose to receive subsistence support only, which enables them to avoid being subject to dispersal. The quality of accommodation has been rated as poor by a recent Parliamentary Committee.

Accommodation is mainly in Scotland, the north-west, north-east, Midlands and Wales. There is none in London and very little in the south-east. Subsistence support is currently set at 70% of income support levels for adults resident in the UK and full income support levels for dependant children under the age of 18.
Current weekly subsistence rates for asylum seekers: Person over 18, £40.85. In France the rate is £82.84 per couple (2017). In the UK asylum seekers are not allowed to work.
See Cash support for asylum seekers

The Home Office offers those asylum seekers granted leave to remain in the UK a grace period of 28 days in which asylum support is continued whilst the applicants are expected to find the means to support and accommodate themselves. Those asylum seekers whose claim is refused are granted a 21 day period of Home Office Asylum support, after which they effectively become refused asylum seekers pending removal.

How long does it take in the UK for asylum claims to be processed?

IThe Home Office target for 'straightforward' claims is six months. In 2017  decisions on 75% of claims (18,189) were made in six months. 12% (2,832) waited between six months and one year, 13% between one and three years and 243 (1%) beween three and five years. Of refusals that went to appeal in 2017 35% were overturned.  (Source: Guardian August 18, 2018). In the year ending June 2022 there were more than 63,000 applications, 77 per cent higher than in 2019.