29,456Asylum applications made in the last 12 months
There were 29,456 asylum applications (main applicants only) in the UK in the year ending December 2020, an 18% decrease from the previous year, although the latest figure will have been impacted by COVID-19.
In the year ending December 2020, the top five countries of origin of people seeking asylum were Iran, Albania, Eritrea, Iraq and Sudan.
The number of asylum applications equates to a tiny fraction of non-EEA nationals arriving in the UK.
41% of initial decisions made in the year to December 2020 have been grants of protection, meaning they have been awarded refugee status or humanitarian protection. A total of 8,858 people were granted protection in 2020 as a result of an asylum claim, a 36% reduction from the previous year where 13,796 people were granted protection.
The Home Office also grants other forms of leave to people who have claimed asylum, as well as grants of protection through the resettlement programmes. We welcome the fact that over the last 12 months, 9,936 people were granted status in the UK through the asylum system or resettlement programmes. This is 48% lower than the previous year, the drop in grants is due to fewer initial decisions being made on asylum applications (14,365 decisions in 2020 compared with 20,766 in 2019), as well as the pause to resettlement activity after March 2020, both a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The proportion of asylum appeals allowed in the year to December 2020 was 39%, down from 44%. The appeal success rate has been steadily increasing over the last decade (up from 29% in 2010) and has been oscillating around 40% for the last two years.
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.
Thousands of people have to wait years for a final decision on their claim, meaning they are left in limbo and unable to plan for their futures.
The backlog in cases awaiting an initial decision continued to rise to another record high. At the end of December 2020, 64,895 people were waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum. Of these, 46,796 (72%) have been waiting for more than 6 months, up from 29,233 the previous year. Whilst there has been a steady rise in this backlog for the last few years, the impact of Covid-19 on the decision making process has exacerbated this further.
Each one of these cases represents a person anxiously awaiting news of their fate.
At the end of December 2020, 64,041* people seeking asylum were being supported by the Government. This figure has continually risen since 2012.
Part of this increase will be due to the impact of Covid-19, with an increase in the number of people entering asylum accommodation coupled with a pause on cessations of support and evictions in place from the end of March to August 2020. The latest figures show that there were 12,235 individuals in receipt of support under Section 98 at the end of December 2020, a 3.5 times higher when compared the same time in the previous year (2,738).
People seeking asylum are banned from working and are provided with just over £5 per day from the Government to cover the costs of their basic necessities. Could you live on just £5 per day?
*This includes people supported under Section 95, Section 4 and Section 98 of the Immigration Act 1999.
41%of applications granted asylum or protection at initial decision stage in the year ending December 2020
The UK Government has the power to detain people who are here seeking refuge. Sometimes this even includes children. There is no maximum time limit in place for people held in detention, meaning people are held indefinitely.
The latest statistics show that there were 910 people in detention in an immigration removal centre at the end of December 2020; among them were 438 people seeking asylum. This equates to a 56% reduction from the previous year.
In the same period, there were 15,449 occurrences of people being released back into the community, indicating flaws in the Government’s detention regime.
Despite a Government promise in 2010 to end the practice of detaining children, there were 23 occurrences of children entering immigration detention in the year ending December 2020. There were no children in detention at the end of December 2020.
It is not just adults and families who come to the UK in search of safety; unaccompanied children, some as young as under 14 years old, also seek Britain’s protection.
In the last 12 months, there were 2,291 applications from unaccompanied children, 39% fewer than the previous year; accounting for 8% of total asylum applications.
Of the children whose claims were decided in 2020, 68% were granted asylum.
A further 65 unaccompanied 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 applications from unaccompanied children in 2020 was Sudan.
The moment someone receives a positive decision on their asylum claim should be one of celebration and relief, an end to instability, and the start of a bright future where they are able to establish new lives in the UK. Instead, many newly-recognised refugees experience homelessness and/or destitution, right at this point.
The Home Office provides accommodation on a no-choice basis and subsistence support of around £5 per day for people seeking asylum if they would otherwise be destitute. But once they are awarded status, this support stops after just 28-days. Faced with a cliff edge and no support to find new housing, open a bank account, and secure income, among other activities needed before being evicted, many refugees are at significant risk of homelessness and/or destitution.
Just 1% of the world’s refugees will ever be resettled anywhere, which means many refugees face a long, uncertain wait to hear if they will ever be able to rebuild their lives in safety.
Over 13 million people have been forcibly displaced from Syria since the start of the conflict, of whom more than 6.6 million are refugees.
In September 2015, the then Prime Minister David Cameron promised to resettle 20,000 Syrian refugees by 2020 – just over 4,000 a year. The number of people resettled under this scheme in Britain now stands at 19,776 since it began.
The Government had committed to resettling another 5,000 refugees from 2020-21 through a new single, consolidated scheme, though it’s now unclear as to when this will start or what number of refugees will be expected to arrive under the scheme once it begins.
Resettlement arrivals to the UK were temporarily suspended due to Covid-19 restrictions in March 2020 and the latest stats show that as a result of this, only 823 refugees were resettled in 2020.
The UK Government also resettles refugees through two other programmes. In 2020, just 77 refugees from conflict zones across the world were resettled in Britain via the Gateway Protection Programme. 79 refugees were resettled via the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme in the same period of time. A further 25 refugees were brought to the UK through the Community Sponsorship scheme
War and persecution often divide refugees from their families but there are few straightforward, legal ways for refugees to safely join loved ones in Britain.
One of the few safe and regular routes for refugees to join their loved ones in the UK is via refugee family reunion visas. In the year ending December 2020, 5,428 family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK, a 27% decrease compared to the previous year.
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic meant that the number of visas granted in April-June 2020 fell to just 131, but has since started to recover with 1,667 visas issued in October – December 2020.
The Family Reunion rules are incredibly restrictive. Only spouses and dependent children are eligible to apply for family reunion visas. People who have been granted protection in the UK may be alone, distraught and worried about the safety of their family who may still be in danger. Even unaccompanied children are not allowed to apply for their parents to join them in the UK. That is why we are campaigning to bring #FamiliesTogether.
Another way in 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 families in Britain. Sadly, this route is rarely used by the Government with only 5 refugees arriving via the scheme in the twelve months ending December 2020.