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Facts: Asylum Applications in the UK

By: Louise Smith, barrister - Updated: 6 Feb 2013 | comments*Discuss
Asylum Uk Seeker Support Grant Children

Much has been written about asylum – and about perceived abuse of the asylum system. Many people believe that the UK is seen as a soft touch by those who wish to exploit what the country has to offer. But what are the facts about asylum applications in the UK?Below is an overview of recent Home Office statistics on asylum applications.

Asylum Applications in the UK

There were 23,430 applications for asylum in 2007, a decrease of 1% on 2006 when there were 23,610 applications. These figures exclude any dependants the applicant may have. Including dependents there were 28,300 applicants in 2007 - almost the same number as in 2006, (28,320). In 2007, 3525 unaccompanied children (under the age of 18) claimed asylum in the UK.

Comparing figures for asylum applications made throughout the EU in 2007, the UK ranked 3rd for total applications after Sweden and France. If the totals are calculated as a proportion of the population in each EU country the UK ranks 11th for the number of asylum seekers per head.

In the first three months of 2008 there were 6595 applications for asylum in the UK – an increase of 16 % on the same period in 2007.

Where do Asylum Seekers Come From?

In 2007 the top three countries from which people sought asylum in the UK were Afghanistan, Iran and China.

In the first three months of 2008 the largest number of applications came from: Afghanistan, with 830 – a 10% increase on the same period in 2007; Iraq, with 700 - a 122% increase; and, Zimbabwe with 640 - a 97% increase. Other countries in the top 10 were Iran, Eritrea, Somalia, Sri Lanka, China, Pakistan and Nigeria.

Results of Applications

In 2007 21,775 initial decisions were made on asylum applications. Of these decisions, 16% were to grant asylum and 74% were refusals. 10% of applicants were granted discretionary leave to remain in the UK - 86% of those granted leave to remain were unaccompanied children.

Of all those granted asylum in 2007, 31% came from Eritrea, 23% from Somalia and 7% from Zimbabwe.

Appeals Against Initial UK Asylum Decisions

In 2007 the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal (AIT) received 14,055 appeals. The AIT made decisions in 14,935 cases – 23% of these were allowed and 72% were dismissed (the others were either abandoned or withdrawn.)

In the first three months of 2008 2095 appeals were received by the AIT – a 46% reduction on the same period in 2007.

Support and Accommodation for Asylum Seekers in the UK

Foreign nationals seeking asylum in the UK may be eligible for asylum support – a benefit that provides financial assistance - to purchase necessary everyday items such as food, toiletries and clothing - and/or accommodation. Recipients must sign an agreement confirming that they will comply with various immigration and other requirements – if they breach the agreement the support may be withdrawn.

The current levels of financial support available range between £33.39 per week for a single person aged 18 to 24 and £42.16 for a single person aged 25 or over. Different rates apply to children under 18, couples and mothers with young children or who are pregnant. Accommodation is available in the North West, North East, Midlands, Scotland and Wales. There are some places in the South East but none in London and applicants have no choice about the region where they are accommodated.

In 2007 applications for asylum support fell by 13% to 16,175. The top three nationalities applying for asylum support were Iranians, Iraqis and Eritreans. At the end of 2007 there were 44,495 people receiving some level of asylum support – 10% fewer than at the end of 2006. By the end of the first three months of 2008 there were said to be 33,865 people receiving asylum support - a 31% reduction on the same period in the previous year.

Whilst these figures include dependents, they do not include unaccompanied asylum seeking children. There were estimated to be 4500 of these in the UK at the end of March 2008. Unaccompanied asylum seeking children are taken into local authority care.

Removal, Departure and Detention of Asylum Seekers

In 2007 12,705 people were removed or assisted in making a voluntary departure from the UK - 22% fewer than the previous year. Including dependants, the figure is 13,705 - 25% fewer than the previous year.

As at 29 March 2008 there were said to have been 2305 people being held in detention in the UK purely on immigration grounds. 86% of all detainees were male. 1640 of the detainees were asylum seekers and 35 were children under the age of 18.

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