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No new routes proposed in Home Office’s Illegal Migration Act report on safe and legal routes to the UK


Report published by Home Secretary as obliged under Section 61 of the Illegal Migration Act 2023

Date of Publication:
11 January 2024

The Home Office has today published a new report on 'safe and legal routes' to the UK for humanitarian purposes.

Boat at seaYou can download the 39-page report here.

Publication of the report was a commitment made by the Government under Section 61 of the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

The report sets out and explains the existing routes under which refugees and those seeking protection can come to the UK, including country specific routes (for Hong Kong, Afghanistan and Ukraine), resettlement schemes, and refugee family reunion.

While the report discusses and outlines possible plans for future legal routes to the UK, no new routes are proposed.

The report says that the large number of arrivals who have come to the UK through the existing routes has put public services under strain and negatively impacted the UK's ability to resettle refugees as this is dependent on local authority capacity to accommodate, welcome and integrate refugees.

The report adds: "In line with the government's ambitions to tackle illegal immigration, UK officials are working to return safe and legal routes to a model which will allow us to expand our reach globally. Through the introduction of an annual cap, we will revert to the approach where refugees can come to the UK when a local authority is able to accommodate them. The cap will include the UK Resettlement Scheme, Community Sponsorship and the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme Pathway 2 and Pathway 3 stage 2. This will in turn provide clarity and certainty to UNHCR on the number of refugees that the UK will be able to take in future years – introducing a quota for the first time."

It continues: "As we revert to the sustainable management and operation of our safe and legal routes, alongside the ongoing concerted effort to bear down on extremely resource-consuming illegal migration, we will be able to develop greater safe and legal opportunities. This will build on the successes and lessons learnt from the recent bespoke geographic schemes. This could include piloting an Emergency Resettlement Mechanism within the UKRS [UK Resettlement Scheme] that would allow us to resettle certain cases, where necessary and requested by UNHCR, faster than we could otherwise. We could also explore the introduction of new referral partners which would allow us to support a wider set of people from overseas including, of particular interest, those groups for whom UNHCR doesn't currently have access, potentially including those currently at risk in their home country."

Jon Featonby of the Refugee Council commented on X in response to the report: "This is 40-odd pages mostly of a history and detail of existing routes. No ambition to expand or create new routes. No sorting out the problems with family reunion. No ways of giving people safer access to the asylum system."

The Refugee Council said the report offered an opportunity for the Government to provide safe alternatives to dangerous Channel crossings, but what was set out was "woefully inadequate".

Amnesty International UK said last year that Government ministers repeatedly claim to favour safe and legal routes to the UK even while doing the opposite when it comes to providing them.

Home Secretary James Cleverly gave the following written statement to the House of Commons today upon publishing the report:


In accordance with my obligations under Section 61 of the Illegal Migration Act 2023, I am today laying before Parliament a report on safe and legal routes to the United Kingdom. The report will also be available on

The UK has a proud history of providing protection for the most vulnerable. Since 2015, we have offered over half a million people safe and legal routes into the UK. This includes those from Hong Kong, Syria, Afghanistan, and Ukraine, as well as family members of refugees.

Through our global resettlement schemes, which includes the UK Resettlement Scheme, the Community Sponsorship scheme and the Mandate Resettlement scheme, we have welcomed over 28,700 refugees since 2015. Through this period, we are the sixth largest recipient of United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) referred refugees, third only to Sweden and Germany in Europe.

This report reaffirms the Government's commitment to providing safe and legal routes for those most in need. Under the Illegal Migration Act, the only way to come to the UK to claim protection will be through safe and legal routes. This will take power out of the hands of criminal gangs and protect vulnerable people.

As part of this commitment, Section 60 of the Illegal Migration Act commits the Government to introducing a cap, in consultation with local authorities, on the number of people brought to the UK through safe and legal routes each year.

This is so that we can get a realistic picture of the UK's capacity to welcome, integrate and accommodate resettled refugees. It is only by determining a realistic picture on capacity that the UK can continue to operate safe and legal routes and ensure these routes form part of a well-managed and sustainable migration system. This is in recognition of the significant pressures facing local authorities and public services right now, including as a direct result of highly resource-consuming illegal migration. The cap is amendable should there be an international crisis that warrants a bespoke UK response.

The consultation to set the cap has now closed. The Government is currently reviewing responses from local authorities across the UK. A consultation summary report will be produced in the spring with draft regulations laid in Parliament before the summer recess. Parliament will then have an opportunity to debate and vote on the cap before it comes into force from 2025.

Through the establishment of the cap, and by bearing down on illegal migration, we will be able to do more for some of the most vulnerable refugees from across the globe, receiving more refugees from UNHCR direct from regions of conflict and instability. As we get control on numbers, we will keep under review whether we are able to do more to support vulnerable refugees and whether we need to consider new safe and legal routes.