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Many Members often receive questions and correspondence from constituents about the UK’s asylum system.

This briefing provides an overview of international and UK asylum law and processes, related statistics, and other issues commonly raised by constituents:

  • Differences in definitions between asylum seeker, refugee and migrant
  • Whether people must claim asylum in the first safe country they reach
  • How asylum claims are decided in the UK
  • Recent statistics on asylum application outcomes
  • Asylum seekers’ eligibility for welfare benefits
  • Comparative information about asylum in other European countries
  • Refugee family reunion and refugee resettlement schemes

Recent statistics

In the year ending June 2020:

  • 32,423 asylum applications were submitted in the UK
  • 11,116 asylum applications were granted at initial decision stage
  • 1,387 grants of humanitarian protection and 889 grants of alternative types of immigration permission following an asylum application were made,
  • 2,932 asylum applications were allowed at appeal stage, and
  • 3,560 grants of protection were made through resettlement schemes.

Initial decisions on asylum applications often take place in a different year to that in which the application was made.

The UK received the fifth highest number of asylum applicants (44,800) amongst EU Member States in 2019. Germany received the largest number (165,600), followed by France (128,900), Spain (117,800), and Greece (77,300). Taken with the UK, these top five countries received 72% of asylum applications in the EU28.

In 2019, Cyprus had the largest number of asylum applications per 10,000 population (156), followed by Malta (83), Greece (72), Luxembourg (37), and Sweden (26). The UK (5) ranked 17th among EU28 countries on this measure.

The UK was below the average among EU countries for positive first instance asylum grants per head of population, ranking 16th among EU28 countries.

In 2019, the UK granted two positive asylum decisions at first instance for every 10,000 people. This put it below the average among EU countries (13), ranking 16th among EU28 countries. In 2019, Greece granted the largest number of positive first instance asylum decisions per 10,000 population (16) and Hungary the fewest (0.06).

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