Skip to main content
Skip to main content

Migration Observatory publishes updated briefing on asylum and refugees, finds initial decisions are now taking substantially longer


Home Office asylum decisions within six months fall from 73% in 2012 to just 25% in 2018

Date of Publication:
11 November 2019

Migration Observatory publishes updated briefing on asylum and refugees, finds initial decisions are now taking substantially longer

11 November 2019

The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford last week published an update of its useful briefing on asylum and refugees in the UK. You can read it here.

ImmigrationThe briefing received considerable media coverage, including BBC News, the Financial Times, The Independent and The Telegraph.

Most of the media coverage focused on the Migration Observatory's finding that initial decisions on asylum applications are taking substantially longer than they were several years ago.

According to the briefing, the share of asylum applications receiving an initial decision within six months has fallen from 73% in the last quarter of 2012 to just 25% in the last quarter of 2018.

The briefing states: "There are several possible explanations for this trend. Factors that are likely to influence the duration of asylum applications include the number of applications received; changes in administrative policy and management, including the end of the 'detained fast track' programme in 2015; resource constraints or capacity; and the shifting characteristics of applicants themselves, with some claims taking longer to resolve than others. In early 2019, the Home Office dropped its 6-month 'service standard' for asylum claims, citing the desire to prioritise cases involving vulnerable applicants and those where an initial decision needed to be reconsidered (Allison and Taylor, 2019)."

Dr Peter Walsh, a researcher at the Migration Observatory and author of the briefing, added: "A few years ago, a solid majority of asylum seekers got an initial decision within 6 months, but now it's only one in four. This of course is just the first stage of the asylum process, and after you factor in appeals, the whole process can take years for many applicants.

"There is no single explanation for the falling share of decisions taken in 6 months. Factors that could have played a role include changes to policy and management, the complexity of the cases the Home Office receives, and of course budget constraints."

The Migration Observatory's briefing also highlighted the significant role of appeals in the asylum system, noting that 40% succeeded.

The briefing says: "Of all applications received in the period 2012 to 2016 with a known outcome as of May 2019 (116,390, which excludes withdrawn applications), 38% resulted in a grant of asylum, humanitarian protection, or another form of leave at initial decision.

"Over this period, around three-quarters (78%) of the applicants who were rejected at the initial decision stage appealed. Of these appeals with a known outcome, 40% were successful. This increased the grant rate from 38% at initial decision to 55% after appeal."

In its coverage of the briefing, The Independent highlighted the finding that the majority of asylum seekers are being housed in disadvantaged local authority areas, while dozens of councils, including in wealthy parts of the South East, support none.

The Independent stated: "The local authorities housing the most asylum seekers and refugees are Glasgow City, Liverpool and Birmingham … Meanwhile, Aylesbury Vale, Cambridgeshire, South Northamptonshire, Hart, Fenland, Daventry, Chelmsford and Gosport – all of which have gross household incomes above the national average – are housing no vulnerable migrants."

Dr Peter Walsh of the Migration Observatory said: "The data suggest that more than 150 local authorities in the UK didn't house a single asylum seeker on Section 95 support in the year to June 2019, while Glasgow alone took more than 4,000. Many of these authorities will have supported resettled refugees, but nevertheless, the distribution of asylum seekers around the UK is pretty unequal."