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House of Commons Library publishes informative new statistical overview of the number of asylum seekers in the UK

Summary:

Research briefing provides helpful examination of asylum application numbers, outcomes and appeals

Date of Publication:
07 July 2021

House of Commons Library publishes informative new statistical overview of the number of asylum seekers in the UK

07 July 2021
EIN

With asylum in the headlines recently due to the publication of the Nationality and Borders Bill, the House of Commons Library has published a timely update of its informative statistical research briefing on asylum seekers in the UK.

BoatIn true House of Commons Library style, the briefing provides a valuably detailed and objective summary of the subject.

It includes a look at the number of asylum applications, the outcomes of applications, and the outcomes of subsequent asylum appeals.

As the briefing notes, while 2020 saw a sharp rise in the number of asylum seekers crossing the English Channel, the total number of asylum applications fell compared to 2019 (from 35,737 in 2019 to 29,456 in 2020).

Figures for recent years are also well below the UK's 2002 peak of 84,132 claims, and well below the recent level of applications in France and Germany.

As YouGov found in 2018, there is a tendency among the British public to overestimate the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK. At a time when the UK received 26,547 asylum applications, YouGov found that 31% of the public believed the UK received more applications than France and 16% thought the figure was about the same. France actually had around four times the UK's figure, with 102,900 applications. Only 28% of the British public surveyed by YouGov correctly thought France received more applications than the UK.

With this is mind, we've reproduced the full House of Commons Library briefing below for easy online reference. You can access the original PDF report here.

______________________________

House of Commons
Library

Asylum Statistics

By Georgina Sturge
1 July 2021

Summary
1 Background
2 Asylum in the United Kingdom
3 Resettlement
4 Asylum in the European Union
5 Asylum during lockdown Appendix: Data table

commonslibrary.parliament.uk

Number SN01403

Image Credits

Syrian refugees in Kawar Gosk camp, Erbil, Iraq, 2014. Photographer: Anmarrfaat. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license / image cropped.

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Contents
Summary
1 Background
1.1 What is asylum?
1.2 Who is an asylum seeker?
1.3 What percentage of migrants are asylum seekers?
1.4 Sources of asylum statistics
1.5 What about resettled refugees?
2 Asylum in the United Kingdom
2.1 Asylum applications and initial decisions
2.2 Final outcomes of asylum applications
2.3 Asylum appeals
2.4 The total asylum caseload
2.5 Where do asylum seekers come from?
2.6 Grants of refugee status by nationality
2.7 How long do asylum applications take?
2.8 How many dependents accompany asylum seekers?
2.9 Where do asylum seekers live?
3 Resettlement
3.1 What is resettlement?
3.2 How many people are resettled to the UK?
Calais clearance: the 'Dubs amendment'
3.3 Where do resettled people live?
4 Asylum in the European Union
4.1 Asylum applications in EU countries
4.2 From where do asylum seekers come to the EU?
4.3 Grants of asylum in EU countries
4.4 Recognition rates by nationality in the EU
5 Asylum during lockdown
Appendix: Data table

Summary

Asylum is protection given by a country to someone fleeing from persecution in their own country. An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for asylum and is awaiting a decision on whether they will be granted refugee status. An asylum applicant who does not qualify for refugee status may still be granted leave to remain in the UK for humanitarian or other reasons. An asylum seeker whose application is refused at initial decision may appeal the decision through an appeals process and, if successful, may be granted leave to remain.

• The number of asylum applications to the UK peaked in 2002 at 84,132. After that the number fell sharply to reach a twenty-year low point of 17,916 in 2010, before rising again to reach 35,737 in 2019.

• The number of applications fell slightly to 29,456 applications in 2020, as the combined result of far fewer arrivals by air and an increase in arrivals by small boat across the English Channel.

• Asylum seekers made up around 6% of immigrants to the UK in 2019.

• The percentage of asylum applicants refused at initial decision reached its highest point at 88% in 2004. After that, the percentage of applicants refused at initial decision fell to 59% in 2014, then rose again before dropping to 48% in 2019.

• As of March 2021, the total 'work in progress' asylum caseload consisted of 109,000 cases. Of these, 52,000 cases were awaiting an initial decision at the end of 2020, 5,200 were awaiting the outcome of an appeal, and approximately 41,600 cases were subject to removal action.

• The total asylum caseload has doubled in size since 2014, driven both by applicants waiting longer for an initial decision and a growth in the number of people subject to removal action following a negative decision.

• In the period from 2004 to 2019, around three-quarters of applicants refused asylum at initial decision lodged an appeal and almost one third of those appeals were allowed.

• In 2020, 29% were nationals of Middle Eastern countries, 28% of asylum applicants were nationals of African countries, 23% were nationals of Asian countries, and 13% were from Europe.

• Between January 2014 and March 2021, 26,661 people were resettled to the UK, mainly from Syria and the surrounding region. Resettlement accounted for around 20% of the people granted humanitarian protection in the UK since 2014.

• In 2019, there were around 5 asylum applications for every 10,000 people living in the UK. Across the EU28 there were 14 asylum applications for every 10,000 people. The UK was therefore below the average among EU countries for asylum applications per head of population, ranking 17th among EU28 countries on this measure.

1 Background

1.1 What is asylum?

Asylum is protection given by a country to someone fleeing from persecution in their own country. According to Article 1 of the 1951 United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, a refugee is a person who:

… owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; [1]

As a signatory to the Convention, the UK grants asylum to those who meet these criteria. The UK also adheres to the European Convention on Human Rights, which prevents the UK from sending someone to a country where there is a real risk they may be exposed to torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.

The UK can also grant other forms of humanitarian protection to people who the Home Office decides have a need for protection but who do not meet the criteria for refugee status. Prior to 2003, such people were granted exceptional leave to remain (ELR) and from 2004 onwards this was replaced with humanitarian protection (HP) or discretionary leave (DL).

In this briefing, humanitarian protection is used as a catch-all term for asylum and these other forms of leave, unless specified otherwise.

1.2 Who is an asylum seeker?

An asylum seeker is someone who has applied for asylum and is awaiting a decision on whether they will be granted refugee status. An asylum applicant who does not qualify for refugee status may still be granted leave to remain in the UK for humanitarian or other reasons. An asylum seeker whose application is refused at initial decision may appeal the decision through an appeals process. Asylum applicants initially refused refugee status may be granted leave to remain following an appeal.

1.3 What percentage of migrants are asylum seekers?

A long-term international migrant is someone who changes their country of usual residence for a period of at least a year. In 2019, there were around 680,000 long-term international immigrants into the UK; around 41,700 of these were asylum seekers or resettled persons, which was equivalent to around 6%. [2]

1.4 Sources of asylum statistics

Statistics on asylums seekers and refugees in the UK are published by the Home Office in their quarterly immigration statistics. [3] These statistics contain data on the number of people applying for asylum and the outcomes of asylum applications.

Home Office statistics distinguish between the number of main applicants for asylum, which represents the asylum caseload, and the number of main applicants and dependants, which represents the number of people covered by asylum applications.

Statistics on asylum seekers and refugees in European Union countries are published in the Home Office bulletin and by the United Nations High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR) in two annual reports: Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries and Global Trends. [4]

1.5 What about resettled refugees?

Resettled people are granted refugee status or another form of humanitarian protection by the UK while abroad and then brought to live in the UK.

The UK does not have a large-scale, permanent resettlement programme but, historically, has introduced specific resettlement schemes in response to humanitarian crises. From 2014 onwards, the UK began resettling Syrians under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), with the aim of resettling 20,000 by 2020.

Given the scale of the VPRS (and other resettlement schemes currently in place), resettled people made up one fifth (20%) of those granted humanitarian protection in the UK since 2014.

Resettled people are usually not included in asylum statistics and feature in a separate Home Office data series.

2 Asylum in the United Kingdom

2.1 Asylum applications and initial decisions

The number of asylum applications to the UK peaked in 2002 at 84,132. After that the number fell sharply to reach a twenty-year low point of 17,916 in 2010, before rising slowly to reach 32,733 in 2015. The number fell, then rose again to 35,737 in 2019 – the highest number since 2003 – before dipping slightly the following year. These trends are illustrated in the charts below.

data

Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants only. 2. Initial decisions do not necessarily relate to applications made in the same period. 3. Some people refused asylum at initial decision may be granted leave to remain following an appeal. 4. The data shown in these charts is set out in Appendix Table at the end of this briefing. Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, tables Asy_D01 and Asy_D02

The first chart shows the number of applications for asylum by main applicants in each year from 1984 to 2020. The second shows the number of initial decisions during the same period, broken down into asylum grants, other grants, and refusals.

In 2020, there were 29,456 applications for asylum, which was lower than the number in 2019 but on par with the number in 2018. Far fewer decisions were made on asylum applications than usual in 2020, as a result of the pandemic: at around 14,400 decisions this was the lowest annual total since 1991.

The third chart, below, shows the proportion of applications that were refused at initial decision for decisions made in each year from 1984 to 2020. The percentage of main applicants refused at initial decision reached its highest point at 88% in 2004. After that the percentage fell to 59% in 2014, before increasing and then falling again to 42% in 2019 – the lowest annual rate since 1990.

data

Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants only. 2. Initial decisions do not necessarily relate to applications made in the same period. 3. Some people refused asylum at initial decision may be granted leave to remain following an appeal. Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D02

2.2 Final outcomes of asylum applications

Because some asylum applicants who are initially refused asylum can appeal, the number of applicants granted leave to remain at initial decision does not reflect the number who are ultimately successful. For this reason, the Home Office publishes data on the final outcomes of asylum applications, which shows the outcomes for cohorts of asylum seekers applying in each year.

Because it can take longer than a year for an asylum case to reach its final outcome, this data lags behind the data on initial decisions.

The table below shows the final outcomes for main applicants applying for asylum in each year from 2004 to 2019. This includes cases where the final outcome is not yet known (there are more of these cases in the most recent years). The data is illustrated in the charts below, the first of which shows the number of main applicants for asylum in each year by final outcome, while the second shows the percentage of all cases with a known outcome that were either asylum grants, other grants, or were refused or withdrawn.

The percentage of cases with a known outcome that were refused or withdrawn fell from 74% in 2004 to 44% in 2014 and was at 48% in 2019. Note that as of February 2021 there were still a large number of cases from 2017 onwards where the outcome was not yet known.

data

Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D04
Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants only. 2. Year relates to the period in which the application was made. 3. Excludes cases which were successful after appeal to the Upper Tribunal of the Immigration and Asylum Chamber.

Final outcomes of asylum applications made in each year
As at February 2021

 

Number

As % of known outcomes

Year

Main applicants

Asylum grants

Other grants

Refused or withdrawn

Outcome not known

Asylum grants

Other grants

Refused or withdrawn

2004

33,960

4,907

3,813

24,403

837

15%

12%

74%

2005

25,712

4,801

2,958

17,097

856

19%

12%

69%

2006

23,608

5,043

2,574

15,035

956

22%

11%

66%

2007

23,431

5,903

2,478

14,251

799

26%

11%

63%

2008

25,932

7,180

2,641

15,497

614

28%

10%

61%

2009

24,487

6,943

2,430

14,691

423

29%

10%

61%

2010

17,916

5,147

1,468

10,996

305

29%

8%

62%

2011

19,865

7,006

1,488

11,113

258

36%

8%

57%

2012

21,843

8,377

1,217

11,979

270

39%

6%

56%

2013

23,584

9,647

1,144

12,509

284

41%

5%

54%

2014

25,033

12,351

1,374

10,988

320

50%

6%

44%

2015

32,733

15,658

1,742

14,835

498

49%

5%

46%

2016

30,747

11,743

1,937

15,735

1,332

40%

7%

53%

2017

26,547

8,777

1,813

13,401

2,556

37%

8%

56%

2018

29,504

9,870

1,427

10,411

7,796

45%

7%

48%

2019

35,737

5,453

583

5,629

24,072

47%

5%

48%

Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D04

2.3 Asylum appeals

Home Office data on the outcomes of asylum applications also shows the number of main applicants for asylum in each year that are refused at initial decision and go on to appeal.

The table below shows the number of main applicants for asylum in each year from 2004 to 2019, the number of these that were refused at initial decision, the number of those refused that appealed, and the number given each outcome, where the outcome is known.

In the period from 2004 to 2019, around three-quarters (77%) of main applicants refused asylum at initial decision lodged an appeal and just under one third (30%) of those appeals were allowed.

Appeal outcomes of asylum applications made in each year
As at February 2021

 

Appeal outcomes

Year

Main applicants

Initially refused asylum, HP or DL

Appeals lodged

Appeals allowed

Appeals dismissed withdrawn

Appeal outcome not known

Appeals lodged as % of refused

Allowed as % of known appeal outcomes

2004

33,960

27,273

21,283

3,950

16,506 766

61

78%

19%

2005

25,712

19,243

14,278

3,032

10,600 523

123

74%

21%

2006

23,608

16,473

11,589

2,567

8,416 497

109

70%

22%

2007

23,431

14,932

10,659

2,292

7,582 415

370

71%

22%

2008

25,932

15,206

12,182

3,167

8,237 506

272

80%

27%

2009

24,487

15,451

13,256

4,000

8,584 507

165

86%

31%

2010

17,916

11,597

9,325

2,500

6,240 444

141

80%

27%

2011

19,865

11,556

9,189

2,529

5,906 629

125

80%

28%

2012

21,843

12,131

9,054

2,708

5,593 626

127

75%

30%

2013

23,584

13,021

9,797

3,115

6,063 529

90

75%

32%

2014

25,033

12,686

10,187

4,016

5,554 483

134

80%

40%

2015

32,733

17,616

14,427

6,124

7,369 804

130

82%

43%

2016

30,747

17,697

13,918

5,687

7,495 527

209

79%

41%

2017

26,547

14,498

10,971

4,379

5,707 496

389

76%

41%

2018

29,504

10,250

7,162

2,610

3,550 373

629

70%

40%

2019

35,737

4,686

2,448

613

940 115

780

52%

37%

Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D04

2.4 The total asylum caseload

In March 2021, the UK Government published plans for changes to the asylum system as part of its New Plan for Immigration. The justification for these plans, which are intended to reduce the size of the in-country asylum caseload, is that this caseload is at an "unsustainable" level. The Plan also seeks to reduce alleged abuse of the asylum system by people making disingenuous claims.

The Home Office has stated that, as of March 2021,

"There are currently over 109,000 asylum cases in the system. 52,000 cases were awaiting an initial decision at the end of 2020, around 5,200 have an asylum appeal outstanding and approximately 41,600 cases are subject to removal action."

One way of understanding the scale of the asylum caseload is to look at the Home Office's asylum 'work in progress' statistics. These are published once a year in its Migration Transparency statistics collection. [5] This caseload is what was referred to in the New Plan for Immigration: as of June 2020, there were 109,000 cases in the system. This was the highest since the series began (in 2011) and was around double the size it had been in 2014.

As the chart below illustrates, there are three primary components of the caseload: people awaiting an initial decision, people who have appealed an initial refusal and are awaiting a decision on this, and people who have been refused asylum and are subject to removal action.

data

Source: Home Office, Migration transparency data, Immigration & Protection data: February 2021,table ASY_03
Notes: 'Post decision' and 'On hold' are not shown here because they are only recorded from 2014 onwards.

The largest category within the caseload is applicants awaiting an initial decision. The most recent statistics show that there were 52,900 people in this category as of March 2021.

The number of refused asylum seekers subject to removal action has been growing since 2014 and consisted of 41,600 people as of June 2020.

2.5 Where do asylum seekers come from?

In 2020, 29% were nationals of Middle Eastern countries, 28% of asylum applicants were nationals of African countries, 23% were nationals of Asian countries, and 13% were from Europe. [6] Around 7% of main applicants were from countries in the Americas, Oceania, and other parts of the world.

The chart below shows the broad nationalities of main applicants for asylum in each year from 2001 to 2020. In 2020, the countries from which the largest number of asylum applicants came to the UK were Iran (3,847), Albania (2,784), Eritrea (2,496), Iraq (2,304), Sudan (2,040) and Syria (1,479). [7]

data

Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants only.
Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D01

Since the start of 2014, around 22,200 Syrians have been resettled via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS). This is separate to the UK's in-country asylum process and is described in more detail in section 3.

2.6 Grants of refugee status by nationality

Grants of refugee status or another form of humanitarian leave to remain by nationality follow a slightly different pattern to applications. This is partly due to a time lag between applications and decisions and partly because acceptance rates are higher for some nationalities than others, in particular years.

The diagram overleaf is a stylised representation of the number of grants of status, by nationality, in each year between 1989 and 2020. The chart flows horizontally from left to right, with an individual 'stream' for each nationality. Not all nationalities are shown; only those with high numbers of grants.

2.7 How long do asylum applications take?

There are different measures of the time it takes to process asylum applications and the backlog of cases that has built up. Two measures that have been the focus of attention in recent years are the number of asylum applications awaiting an initial decision and the number of cases awaiting conclusion. Since 2001 the attention shifted from the former to the latter, as a backlog of cases awaiting an initial decision in 2001 became a backlog of cases awaiting conclusion in 2006.

In June 2010, the Home Office introduced a new time series for measuring the backlog of asylum applications, based on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) administrative database. This new series counts the number of applications for asylum lodged since 1 April 2006 which are still under consideration at the end of each quarter. It includes cases pending an initial decision (whether for more or less than six months) and those pending further judicial appeal, but excludes those who have lodged a judicial review.

data

Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants only. 2. 'Pending' cases are those asylum applications, including fresh claims, lodged since 1 April 2006 which are still under consideration at the end of the reference period. Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D03

According to the new series, the total number of pending asylum cases was 55,133 at the end of December 2020. This was around 26,000 more – around double – the number at the end of December 2018 and was the highest number of pending cases at the end of any quarter since the new series started in June 2010. At the end of March 2021 the number had shrunk slightly to 54,973 pending cases.

2.8 How many dependents accompany asylum seekers?

In 2020 the total number of dependants accompanying or subsequently joining main asylum applicants prior to an initial decision being made was 6,585, compared with 9,800 in 2019. Including dependants, the total number of individuals who applied for asylum during 2020 was 36,041, down by a fifth from 2019 (45,537) which had been the highest annual number since 2003.

In 2020, there was one dependent for roughly every four main asylum applicants and this ratio has been relatively stable over the last thirty years. [8]

2.9 Where do asylum seekers live?

The only data available on the location of asylum seekers is for those who are receiving government support. Data is available by region and Local Authority.

These figures capture asylum seekers who are being supported by the state under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Section 95 support is a weekly stipend which is means-tested, so it is not received by asylum seekers who have sufficient means of their own.

Most of these supported asylum seekers are also provided with accommodation. The asylum seeker is not given a choice as to location and the Home Office's policy is to disperse them around the country.

At the end of March 2021:

• There were 44,825 asylum seekers receiving section 95 support in the UK, of whom 40,396 were living in dispersal accommodation. [9]

• The North East had the highest number of dispersed asylum seekers relative to its population (16 supported asylum seekers in every 10,000 inhabitants), while the South-East had the lowest relative number (fewer than 1 in every 10,000 inhabitants).

• Glasgow was the local authority with the most dispersed asylum seekers (3,778 or 59 per 10,000 residents), followed by Birmingham (1,408 or 12 per 10,000)

• 120 of the 381 local authorities listed (32%) contained no dispersed or supported asylum seekers. [10]

The full list of supported asylum seekers by region and local authority can be found in the online Annex (an Excel file).

3 Resettlement

3.1 What is resettlement?

The previous section dealt with applications for asylum by people already in the UK. The UK can also grant asylum or other forms of humanitarian protection to people living outside the UK, who are then resettled to the UK.

Resettlement to the UK operates through different schemes, rather than one overarching system:

• UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) (2021 – present)

• Community Sponsorship (2021 – present)

• Mandate Resettlement Scheme (1995 – present).

Between 2014 and March 2021, three additional resettlement schemes operated:

• Gateway Protection Programme (GPP) (2004- 2021)

• Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) (2014 – 2021)

• Vulnerable Children's Resettlement Scheme (VCRS) (2016 – 2021).

The UKRS and Community Sponsorship schemes are open to refugees in all parts of the world. The Mandate Scheme is for recognised refugees, anywhere in the world, who have a close family member in the UK willing to accommodate them.

The VPRS was specifically for Syrian nationals and the VCRS was for children from the Middle East and North Africa.

3.2 How many people are resettled to the UK?

Between the start of 2014 and the end of March 2021, 26,661 people were resettled to the UK under the four schemes listed above. During the same period, around 105,600 people were granted asylum or another form of humanitarian leave to remain through the UK's in-country asylum process. [11]

This means that one fifth (20%) of the people granted humanitarian protection in the UK since 2014 were people resettled directly from abroad.

Of those resettled since 2014, the majority (20,319 people) came through the VPRS. The VCRS resettled 1,838 people during this time. Half (49%) of all those resettled since 2014 were children.

The GPP and Mandate schemes have been in operation for longer: since 2004 and 2008, respectively. To date, the GPP has resettled 9,939 individuals (an average of 621 per year) and the Mandate scheme, 472 (an average of 39 per year).

Historically, the UK's policy on resettlement has been to introduce specific resettlement schemes in response to particular humanitarian crises. The Refugee Council offers a summary of previous resettlement schemes in the UK:

"The UK has also received refugees through specific programmes in response to emergency situations, including 42,000 Ugandan Asians expelled from Uganda from 1972-74, 22,500 Vietnamese displaced persons from 1979-92, over 2,500 Bosnians in the early 1990s, and over 4,000 Kosovars in 1999."

Refugee Council (2004) Resettling to the UK: The Gateway Protection Programme

The VPRS target was to resettle 20,000 Syrians by 2020 and this target was met if we include resettlements in 2020 itself. The VCRS target was 3,000 people from the Middle East and North Africa, including children and their families by 2020. [12] At the end of 2020, 1,838 people had been resettled under the VCRS.

Calais clearance: the 'Dubs amendment'

As at the end of January 2018, "over 220" unaccompanied children had been resettled from elsewhere in Europe under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (the 'Dubs amendment'). As at January 2018, had been resettled. [13]

Between October 2016 and the end of 2018, the UK resettled a further 549 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who had family in the UK from elsewhere in the EU in response to the clearance of camps around Calais. [14]

3.3 Where do resettled people live?

The number of people resettled under the VPRS is available by region and Local Authority. These are Syrian nationals.

Northern Ireland had the most resettled Syrians, relative to its population (10 resettled for every 10,000 inhabitants), followed by the North East (7 for every 10,000 inhabitants). Coventry resettled the most in terms of numbers (697) and Gateshead resettled the most relative to its population: 24 for every 10,000 inhabitants).

The full list of Syrians resettled since 2014 by region and local authority can be found in the online Annex (an Excel file).

4 Asylum in the European Union

4.1 Asylum applications in EU countries

The number of asylum applications in EU countries has increased during the last five years. This increase has been partly, but not wholly, driven by the refugee crisis arising from the Syrian civil war.

The below shows the number of people applying for asylum in EU countries in each month from January 2009 to December 2020. These figures include both main applicants and dependents.

data

Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants and dependants. 2. Figures on asylum applications in Croatia are included from January 2013; however, the numbers are small (see table below).
Source: Eurostat, Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex: monthly data [migr_asyappctzm]

The total number of people applying for asylum in EU counties increased from a monthly average of 22,000 in the year ending 2010 to 60,000 in 2019.

Asylum applications in EU countries reached their highest level in October 2015 at 172,000, falling to 101,000 in January 2016. They increased again to 138,000 in August 2016 before falling to a low of 35,000 in January 2020.

The table below shows the number of asylum applications received in European Union countries up to the end of 2019. [15] Total asylum applications in EU countries stood at 1.32 million in 2015 and fell to 669,000 in 2018 before rising slightly to 740,300 in 2019.

In 2019, Germany received the largest number of asylum applicants among EU countries (165,600), followed by France (128,900), Spain (117,800), Greece (77,300), and United Kingdom (44,800). Together, these top five countries received 72% of asylum applications in the EU28.

Asylum applications in EU countries
EU28 countries, 2015-19

Country

2015

2016

2017

2018

2019

Austria

88,200

42,300

24,700

13,700

12,500

Belgium

44,800

18,300

18,300

22,500

27,500

Bulgaria

20,400

19,400

3,700

2,500

2,200

Croatia

200

2,200

1,000

800

1,400

Cyprus

2,300

2,900

4,600

7,800

13,700

Czech Republic

1,500

1,500

1,400

1,700

1,900

Denmark

21,000

6,200

3,200

3,600

2,700

Estonia

200

200

200

100

100

Finland

32,300

5,600

5,000

4,500

4,500

France

76,200

84,300

99,300

120,400

128,900

Germany

476,600

745,200

222,600

184,200

165,600

Greece

13,200

51,100

58,700

67,000

77,300

Hungary

177,100

29,400

3,400

700

500

Ireland

3,300

2,200

2,900

3,700

4,800

Italy

83,500

123,000

128,900

60,000

43,800

Latvia

300

400

400

200

200

Lithuania

300

400

500

400

600

Luxembourg

2,500

2,200

2,400

2,300

2,300

Malta

1,800

1,900

1,800

2,100

4,100

Netherlands

45,000

20,900

18,200

24,000

25,200

Poland

12,200

12,300

5,000

4,100

4,100

Portugal

900

1,500

1,800

1,300

1,800

Romania

1,300

1,900

4,800

2,100

2,600

Slovakia

300

100

200

200

200

Slovenia

300

1,300

1,500

2,900

3,800

Spain

14,800

15,800

36,600

54,100

117,800

Sweden

162,600

28,800

26,300

21,600

26,300

United Kingdom

40,400

39,700

34,800

38,800

44,800

EU15

1,105,200

1,186,900

683,700

621,600

685,700

EU25

1,301,600

1,237,400

702,700

641,700

714,900

EU27

1,323,200

1,258,700

711,200

646,400

719,700

EU28

1,323,500

1,292,700

735,000

669,000

740,300

Source: Eurostat, Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data [migr_asyappctza]
Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants and dependants.

data

Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants and dependants. 2. Population is for 1 Jan 2019.
Source: Eurostat, Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data [migr_asyappctza], Population by age and sex [demo_pjan

The chart above shows the number of asylum applications in EU countries per 10,000 population in 2019. During this period Cyprus had the largest number of asylum applications per 10,000 people (156), followed by Malta (83), Greece (72), Luxembourg (37), and Sweden (26).

In 2019, there were five asylum applications for every 10,000 people resident in the UK. Across the EU28 there were 14 asylum applications for every 10,000 people. The UK was therefore below the average among EU countries for asylum applications per head of population, ranking 17th among EU28 countries on this measure.

4.2 From where do asylum seekers come to the EU?

The table below shows the ten largest groups of foreign nationals applying for asylum in EU countries in 2019. The largest groups were nationals of Syria (79,000), Afghanistan (59,200), Venezuela (45,000), Iraq (35,200), and Colombia (32,000).

Nationality

Number

applications

Syria

78,545

10.9%

Afghanistan

59,150

8.2%

Venezuela

45,405

6.3%

Iraq

35,170

4.9%

Colombia

32,305

4.5%

Pakistan

29,645

4.1%

Turkey

25,595

3.5%

Nigeria

25,465

3.5%

Iran

24,395

3.4%

Albania

23,275

3.2%

All applications

721,485

100.0%

Source: Eurostat, Asylum and first time asylum applicants by citizenship, age and sex Annual aggregated data [migr_asyappctza]
Notes: 1. Figures are for main applicants and dependants. 2. Figures are rounded to the nearest five.

The top ten countries of nationality for asylum applicants in the EU accounted for 54% of all asylum applications in 2019.

4.3 Grants of asylum in EU countries

The table below shows first instance decisions on asylum applications in EU countries in 2019, including the number of grants and refusals. Here, grants include all positive decisions on asylum applications, not just those granted refugee status.

In 2019, Germany granted the largest number of positive asylum decisions among EU countries (70,300), followed by Spain (38,400), and France (28,100).

First instance decisions on asylum applications
EU28 countries, 2019

Country

Grants

Refusals

Total

Austria

7,425

6,465

13,890

Belgium

6,530

10,640

17,170

Bulgaria

400

850

1,250

Croatia

55

265

320

Cyprus

1,300

1,975

3,275

Czech Republic

135

1,255

1,390

Denmark

1,575

1,455

3,030

Estonia

45

45

90

Finland

1,665

3,180

4,845

France

28,140

85,750

113,890

Germany

70,320

83,855

154,175

Greece

17,350

15,350

32,700

Hungary

60

650

710

Ireland

975

895

1,870

Italy

18,375

75,110

93,485

Latvia

35

120

150

Lithuania

90

230

325

Luxembourg

670

510

1,180

Malta

405

635

1,040

Netherlands

4,845

8,095

12,940

Poland

265

1,730

1,995

Portugal

170

570

745

Romania

585

730

1,315

Slovakia

35

55

90

Slovenia

85

130

215

Spain

38,420

19,615

58,035

Sweden

6,055

14,645

20,700

United Kingdom

15,000

13,460

28,460

EU15

217,515

339,595

557,115

EU25

219,970

346,420

566,395

EU28

221,015

348,255

569,270

Source: Eurostat, First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex: quarterly data [migr_asydcfstq]. Figures have been rounded to the nearest 5.

data

Figures are for main applicants and dependants. 2. First instance decisions do not necessarily relate to applications made during the same period.
Source: Eurostat, First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex: quarterly data [migr_asydcfstq]

The chart above shows the number of positive asylum decisions granted at first instance per 10,000 population in EU countries in 2019. During this period Greece granted the largest number of positive first instance asylum decisions per 10,000 people (16) and Hungary the fewest (0.06).

In 2019, the UK granted two positive asylum decisions at first instance for every 10,000 people. Across the EU28 there were 13 such grants for every 10,000 people. The UK was therefore below the average among EU countries for positive first instance asylum grants per head of population, ranking 16 h among EU28 countries on this measure.

4.4 Recognition rates by nationality in the EU

The table below shows recognition rates at first instance decision for the largest national groups whose asylum applications to EU countries were decided in 2019.

The recognition rate is the share of positive decisions in the total number of asylum decisions at a particular stage of the asylum procedure. As the Eurostat glossary of statistics explains:

Calculation of the overall recognition rate for all stages of the asylum procedure cannot be made due to lacking information linking the outcomes at first instance and final on appeal for each person concerned.

The figures here relate to the first instance decision and do not include decisions made on asylum appeals.

Recognition rate at first instance asylum decision
Top 20 nationalities by number of asylum decisions, EU28, 2019

Nationality

Grants

Refusals

Recognition rate

Total FI decisions

Syria

59,620

10,130

85%

69,750

Venezuela

37,230

1,455

96%

38,690

Afghanistan

19,410

16,305

54%

35,720

Iraq

13,595

19,285

41%

32,885

Nigeria

4,795

26,055

16%

30,850

Pakistan

3,085

21,935

12%

25,020

Albania

1,450

18,965

7%

20,415

Georgia

750

17,995

4%

18,745

Iran

7,570

11,125

40%

18,695

Turkey

9,180

8,150

53%

17,330

Bangladesh

1,220

14,785

8%

16,005

Guinea

2,485

11,505

18%

13,990

Somalia

5,645

5,715

50%

11,360

Russia

2,525

8,690

23%

11,220

Eritrea

9,135

2,005

82%

11,140

Ukraine

960

8,415

10%

9,375

Côte d'Ivoire

1,615

7,410

18%

9,025

Mali

1,325

7,195

16%

8,520

Senegal

580

7,555

7%

8,135

Morocco

665

6,930

9%

7,600

All nationalities

221,025

348,570

38.8%

569,600

Source: Eurostat, First instance decisions on applications by citizenship, age and sex: quarterly data [migr_asydcfstq]

In 2019, 85% of Syrian nationals were granted a positive asylum decision at first instance. By contrast, 4% of Georgian nationals were granted a positive asylum decision at first instance. Among all nationalities the recognition rate at first instance was 39%.

5 Asylum during lockdown

The UK first went into 'lockdown' as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic in mid-March 2020. This limited people's ability to travel in and out of the UK and to travel around the country. The number of new asylum applications fell sharply in the quarter April to June 2020, compared with previous quarters. During this time there were 5,789 applications, which was the lowest number in a quarter since 2010.

Prior to this, the quarterly number of applications had been at a 13-year high of 12,358 between October and December 2019. The number rose again in the third quarter of 2020, to a level on par with the previous year, but dropped during the next lockdown in Q1 2021.

data

Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D01. Shows main applicants only.

The Home Office noted,

"The UK has continued to accept asylum applications throughout the pandemic. However, restrictions in the UK, across Europe and the rest of the world are likely to have limited the ability of some migrants, who may have gone on to claim asylum in the UK, from doing so." [16]

The fall in the number of asylum applications was chiefly due to a fall in the number of applications being made 'at ports' or, in other words, at the UK border immediately on arrival by plane, ferry, or train. As the chart below shows, 97% of applications were made 'in country' in Q2 2020, as opposed to 'at ports'.

'In country' applications includes those made by most people crossing the Channel in small boats. As the chart below also shows, around one third (35%) of applications in Q2 2020 and approximately 44% of all asylum applications in Q3 2020 were small boat arrivals.

data

Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, table Asy_D01. Shows main applicants only.
Note: The chart on the right assumes all boat arrivals applied for asylum. The true proportion is not known but the Home Office has indicated that it was around 98%.

The rise in boat arrivals in 2020 partly offset the decline in asylum applicants arriving by planes, trains, and ferries.

In April 2020, there was a sharp rise in the number of entering the UK illegally by crossing the English Channel in small boats, and the high numbers were sustained until the Autumn. Ninety-eight per cent of those who crossed in the first half of 2020 applied for asylum but no information has been released about those who crossed during the latter half of the year. [17]

In total in 2020, roughly 8,400 people crossed the Channel in this manner. This was substantially more than in 2019 (1,800) and in 2018 (300).

In the first 6 months of 2021, nearly 5,700 people crossed in small boats. The estimated number of people who crossed in June 2021 (around 2,180) was the highest number in any month to date.

These figures are estimates based on a combination of data released by the Home Office and data supplied to the House of Commons Library by the BBC, much of which has been confirmed by the Home Office.

data

Source: BBC and Home Office data, as of 1 July 2021.

Resettlement flights were also paused during lockdown and, in total, only 8 people were resettled between April and the end of December 2020.

Appendix: Data table

Asylum applications and initial decisions, Main applicants
1984-2020

   

Grants

Applications

Initial decisions

Total grants

Asylum grants

Other grants

Refusals

1984

2,905

1,431

1,084

453

631

347

1985

4,389

2,635

2,133

574

1,559

502

1986

4,266

2,983

2,450

348

2,102

533

1987

4,256

2,432

1,797

266

1,531

635

1988

3,998

2,702

2,206

628

1,578

496

1989

11,640

6,955

6,070

2,210

3,860

890

1990

26,205

4,025

3,320

920

2,400

705

1991

44,840

6,075

2,695

505

2,190

3,380

1992

24,605

34,900

16,440

1,115

15,325

18,465

1993

22,370

23,405

12,715

1,590

11,125

10,690

1994

32,831

20,988

4,487

827

3,660

16,501

1995

43,963

27,006

5,705

1,294

4,411

21,301

1996

29,642

38,962

7,293

2,239

5,054

31,669

1997

32,502

36,044

7,100

3,986

3,114

28,944

1998

46,014

31,571

9,255

5,346

3,909

22,316

1999

71,158

21,307

10,283

7,816

2,467

11,024

2000

80,315

97,547

21,868

10,373

11,495

75,679

2001

71,027

120,949

31,641

11,449

20,192

89,308

2002

84,132

83,540

28,408

8,272

20,136

55,132

2003

49,407

64,941

11,074

3,863

7,211

53,867

2004

33,960

46,021

5,558

1,563

3,995

40,463

2005

25,712

27,393

4,739

1,941

2,798

22,654

2006

23,608

20,930

4,480

2,169

2,311

16,458

2007

23,431

21,775

5,740

3,533

2,207

16,032

2008

25,932

19,398

5,898

3,727

2,171

13,505

2009

24,487

24,287

6,743

4,188

2,555

17,545

2010

17,916

20,264

5,198

3,488

1,710

15,066

2011

19,865

17,382

5,651

4,312

1,339

11,731

2012

21,843

16,774

6,059

5,135

924

10,715

2013

23,584

17,665

6,664

5,736

928

11,001

2014

25,033

19,783

8,151

7,266

885

11,632

2015

32,733

28,623

11,422

9,975

1,447

17,201

2016

30,747

24,895

8,465

7,137

1,328

16,430

2017

26,547

21,269

6,779

5,957

822

14,490

2018

29,504

21,084

6,931

5,557

1,374

14,153

2019

35,737

20,766

10,796

9,401

1,395

9,970

2020

29,456

14,365

6,569

5,753

816

7,796

Notes to Table

1. Figures are for main applicants only. 2. Other grants include humanitarian protection, discretionary leave, and grants under family and private life rules, which relate to the introduction of a new approach to Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, from 9 July 2012; Leave Outside the Rules, which was introduced for those refused asylum from 1 April 2013; and UASC leave, which was introduced for Unaccompanied Asylum-Seeking Children refused asylum but eligible for temporary leave from 1 April 2013. From April 2003, exceptional leave to remain was replaced with humanitarian protection and discretionary leave. 3. Figures from 1989 to 1993 are rounded to the nearest five and may not sum due to independent rounding. 4. Initial decisions do not necessarily relate to applications made in the same period. 5. Some people refused asylum at initial decision may be granted leave to remain following an appeal.

Source: Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending March 2021, tables Asy_D01 and Asy_D02

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[1] UNHCR, United Nations Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, Article 1. The UK signed the Refugee Convention in 1954 and the Protocol in 1967.

[2] ONS, Long-Term International Migration, Table 1.01 LTIM Components and Adjustments

[3] Home Office, Immigration statistics quarterly release

[4] The latest editions are Asylum Levels and Trends in Industrialized Countries 2014 and Global Trends 2018.

[5] The work in progress statistics can be found in table ASY_03 of 'Immigration & Protection data'.

[6] Afghanistan is included in figures for Asia, while Iran is included in the Middle East.

[7] These figures represent main applicants who applied through the in-country asylum system only.

[8] Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending December 2020, table Asy_D01

[9] Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending December 2020, table Asy_D11

[10] Some local authorities in Northern Ireland have been grouped here so the total may not match other lists of local authorities. The 2021 boundary changes in Northamptonshire are not yet reflected in these statistics.

[11] Home Office Immigration Statistics, year ending December 2020 Asy_D01 (initial decisions) and Asy_D04 (appeals). Includes main applicants and dependants.

[12] HC169822, 06 September 2018

[13] See, for example HC208393, 21 January 2019.

[14] See HC198760, 12 December 2018

[15] Comparable data is not yet available for 2020.

[16] Home Office, Statistics relating to COVID-19 and the immigration system, May 2020

[17] Home Affairs Select Committee, Oral evidence HC 705, Q29