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  

The European Asylum Report Office (EASO) 2014 Annual Report

In 2014 more than 660,000 third country nationals applied for international protection in the EU, an increase of 43% compared to 2013 and the highest number since EU level data collection began in 2008.

The highest number of applications came from: Syria, Western Balkans (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia), and Eritrea.

The main receiving EU countries were Germany, Sweden, Italy, France.

At the end of 2014 more than 500,000 persons were awaiting a decision on their asylum application in the EU.

  • Refugee status was granted to 99,440
  • Subsidiary protection to 59,565
  • Humanitarian protection to 22,315

An EU recognition rate of 47%

The highest recognition rates were for Syrians, Eritreans and stateless persons.

The ongoing crisis in Syria posed a key challenge to the EU in 2014 with 128,020 asylum applications, up by 143% on 2013.

Afghan applications remained high at 42 745, an increase of 54% on 2013 with the highest share of unaccompanied minors (6155).

From West Balkans 110, 000

From Ukraine 14,390

UNHCR 2014 Asylum Trends Report

Receiving countries:

Germany: an estimated 173,100 new asylum applications in 2014

Sweden: 75,100

Italy: 63,700

UK: 31,300 (sixth highest recipient with 5% of EU asylum claims)

How many refugees in the UK?

117,116 refugees, 36,383 pending asylum cases, 16 stateless persons or 0.24% of the population

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

(additional information from Migration Observatory) 

The UK Refugee Council website contains useful information on asylum.

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.

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 (2015) weekly subsistence rates for asylum seekers: Couple £72.52;  Person over 18, £36.62. In France the rate is £82.84 per couple. In Norway it is more than double France's rate.
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.