Asylum statistics

These statistics have been collated from a variety of different sources, which have differing ways of categorising and describing ‘race’ and ethnicity. (For example, some sources differentiate between particular black ‘groups’ whilst others do not. Some sources may just use the term Asian, others may differentiate between different Asian groups or different religious groups.) Where we have used other organisations’ statistics, we have followed the categorisation/names used by them – which means that there may be inconsistencies in terminology within and between pages.

Asylum seekers

An asylum seeker is a person who has lodged a claim for protection under either the 1951 Refugee Convention or Article 3 (prohibiting torture, or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Asylum applications

About 80 per cent of the world’s asylum seekers live in countries neighbouring the ones they have fled. About 2 per cent of the world’s refugee population live in the UK.

The number of people seeking asylum in the UK peaked in the early 2000s with 84,130 applications (excluding dependants) in 2003. It has remained much lower since this point. Between September 2011 and September 2012, 20,838 people applied for asylum. 10,750 asylum applications in this period were refused (64 per cent of the total).

In 2012, there were about 193,510 refugees, 15,710 pending asylum cases and 205 people classed as stateless in the UK: 0.33 per cent of the population.[2]

Immigration detention

The number of people detained for ‘immigration purposes’ (by which, what is usually meant is asylum seekers or others detained to facilitate their removal, process asylum/immigration claims or to establish their identity) in the UK has increased massively since the powers to detain were introduced in the 1970s.[2] About 28,000 people were detained for immigration purposes in the UK in 2010, the majority of whom were asylum seekers. 188 people were detained in 1975. There is no statutory time limit on how long a person can be detained and many people are held for years.[3]

In the first three quarters of 2012 (January to September), there were 160 incidents of self-harm requiring medical attention in immigration detention. There were 1,336 incidences where detainees were put on formal self-harm risk in this period.[4]

Deportations and forced ‘removals’

An individual subject to immigration control can be deported if the Secretary of State deems their removal from the country ‘conducive to the public good’, or when recommended by a court. An individual can be removed if they have violated the conditions of their leave to remain, have violated visa conditions, or have entered the country without permission. An individual can be classed as voluntarily departing the country if enforcement proceedings have been instigated but s/he arranges to leave the country themselves (in conjunction, or not, with one of various ‘voluntary return’ schemes).[5]

In 2008, the UK Border Agency claimed that it ‘removed’ one person from the UK every eight minutes. In 2011, 41,482 people were removed from the UK or departed voluntarily after a removal process was begun.

The majority of those who are deported or removed are not asylum seekers. In 2011, 10,077 asylum seekers were removed, indicating a decrease when compared to the year before.

Asylum support

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work, except in very rare circumstances. Asylum seekers who have not yet had a decision on their claim generally receive accommodation and financial support set at about two-thirds the level of income support if, otherwise, they would be destitute (Section 95 support). In 2013, a single adult in this situation would receive £36.62 per week (£5.23 per day). This support is normally terminated soon after a decision (positive or negative) is made on the claim. In the second quarter of 2011 there were 20,855 people (excluding dependants) receiving Section 95 support.

For more information see:

Migration Observatory

Refugee Council

Medical Justice

United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees


References: [1] UNHCR, ‘The facts: asylum in the UK’, UNHCR (accessed 11 March 2013). [2] Stephanie J. Silverman, Immigration detention in the UK (COMPAS, Oxford, 2011). [3] Jon Burnett, Judith Carter, Jon Evershed, Maya Bell Kohli, Claire Powell and Gervase de Wilde, ‘State Sponsored Cruelty’: children in immigration detention (London, Medical Justice, 2010), p. 11. [4]Self-harm in immigration detention January through September 2012’, No-Deportations (accessed 12 March 2013). [5] Scott Blinder, Deportations, removals and voluntary departures from the UK (Oxford, COMPAS, 2011).