Overview of the main changes since the previous report update

United Kingdom

Country Report: Overview of the main changes since the previous report update Last updated: 24/04/24


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The report was previously updated in May 2023.

International protection

Asylum procedure

  • Key asylum statistics: 84,425 people applied for asylum in the UK in 2023, including 9,307 from Afghanistan and 7,397 from Iran. 19% of applicants were children (both accompanied and unaccompanied) and 72% were men and boys. Recognition rate at first instance was 67%. Applications still pending at the end of 2023 were down from the end of 2022, to 95,252. The Home Office served 12,581 ‘notices of intent’ in 2023 advising applicants that their claim may be deemed inadmissible, although only one case was actually been deemed inadmissible (see Statistics).
  • Almost 30,000 people arrived by small boat across the Channel: In 2023 there were 29,437 people who arrived in the UK by small boat across the Channel. This was 36% lower than in 2022 and the reduction is explained partly by poor weather conditions as well as a 93% reduction in Albanians arriving via this route[1] (see Access to the territory).
  • Access to the procedure: UNHCR published a report in May 2023 of an audit they carried out on the UK’s asylum intake, registration and screening procedures. Concerns were raised about the use of informal barriers to asylum claims[2] (see Access to the territory).
  • Resettlement for Afghans: The Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy resettled 2,904 people to the UK in 2023. An Afghan resettlement scheme (ACRS) was also announced, firstly in August 2021 but with details in January 2022. Of the three identified pathways only one grants refugee status (pathway 2), taking referrals from UNHCR in line with the usual resettlement pathway. In 2023, 104 people had been resettled through this pathway and 688 under pathway 3.[3] Others who were evacuated in 2021 or are to be brought directly with the assistance of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, were given indefinite leave to remain outside of the Immigration Rules.[4] This makes applying for family reunion more difficult.[5] Despite being entitled to access public funds, many Afghan families have had difficulties in moving to long term accommodation[6] (see Legal access to the territory).
  • Supreme Court finds that Rwanda is not a safe country to send asylum seekers to: On 15 November 2023, the Supreme Court handed down its decision in the litigation challenging the UK’s agreement with Rwanda under a Memorandum of Understanding to send asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.[7] The Supreme Court held that there were substantial grounds for believing that those sent to Rwanda would be subject to refoulement and a real risk of ill treatment. In making the decision, the Supreme Court said that the High Court, which had initially dismissed the claim, was wrong to have attached little weight to the evidence of UNHCR. As at the date of this report (April 2024), no one has been sent to Rwanda.
  • Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024: In response to the Supreme Court’s decision, the UK government brought forward legislation to say that Rwanda was a safe country.[8] This was approved by Parliament on 22 April 2024 and is expected to receive Royal Assent imminently.
  • Illegal Migration Act 2023: On 20 July 2023 the Illegal Migration Act 2023 received Royal Assent however most of it has not been brought into force at this time. If and when this provision is brought in, the Act imposes a duty to make arrangements for removal from the UK of everyone to whom the four relevant conditions apply. Those conditions are that a person has arrived on or after 20 July 2023, has entered unlawfully, did not travel directly to the UK and does not have permission to be in the UK.[9]

Where a person has arrived on or after 7 March 2023 and the rest of the conditions apply the Act states that they ‘must not’ be given leave to remain in the UK, and this provision is currently in force. There are limited exceptions to this for children, victims of trafficking, where the Secretary of State considers that failure to do would be in breach of the UK’s international obligations, including the ECHR, or where there are other exceptional circumstances.[10] Because of these provisions and the lack of clarity about how they will work, there is an increasing backlog of cases with uncertain futures[11] (see Admissibility procedure).

Reception conditions

  • Use of alternative accommodation sites: There has been an increase in the use of institutional accommodation including repurposed military barracks, which has resulted in media attention.[12] The former Ministry of Defence sites are Napier barracks, Wethersfield[13], Scampton[14], and then at Portland Port there is the Bibby Stockholm which is a barge.[15] A man who was being accommodated on the barge died in December 2023.[16] The guidance issued in relation to the barge states that if people refuse to move to the barge, their asylum support can be stopped, leaving them without financial support or accommodation[17] (see Housing).

Detention of asylum seekers

  • Number of people detained continues to rise: In 2023, 15,864 people were detained under immigration powers, an increase from 14,227 in 2022. These were not all people who were claiming or had previously claimed asylum (see Detention).
  • Changes to detention powers made by the Illegal Migration Act: The Illegal Migration Act 2023 amended the detention powers with effect from 28 September 2023. The main changes are that it is now for the Secretary of State to decide what a reasonable period of detention is for a person and where release is deemed appropriate the person can be detained as long as reasonable necessary while arrangements for release are made.[18] The latter change was made in response to the Secretary of State losing a judicial review challenging delays in arranging asylum accommodation for people in detention[19] (see Grounds for detention).
  • Alternatives to detention: A report was published by UNHCR UK in 2023 looking at a pilot scheme of alternatives to detention. Of the 84 people who participated, six were granted leave to remain and 52 others were advised that they may have grounds to stay in the UK. These are not necessarily asylum cases. One of the main issues highlighted in the report was the inaccessibility of legal aid and the problems this caused people in accessing rights they may be entitled to[20] (see Alternatives to detention).

Content of international protection

  • Reversal of the use of differentiated treatment: the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 introduced a two-tier system for refugees, where those who had travelled via a safe third country and had not claimed asylum without delay would be penalised with a shorter grant of leave and more difficult provisions around family reunion. This process was dropped in 2023 and anyone affected had their leave upgraded to normal refugee leave.[21]

UK Ukraine visa support

The information given hereafter constitute a short summary of the 2023 Report on UK Ukraine visa support, for further information, see Annex on UK Ukraine visa support.

Eligibility and procedure

  • Ukraine Family Scheme: persons eligible under this scheme had to be joining a family member or an extended family member who had to be a UK citizen or have settled, EEA pre-settled status or beneficiary of refugee status/humanitarian protection. Non-Ukrainians could only benefit from this scheme insofar as they were immediate family members for another applicant who is Ukrainian. There was no fee for the visa. The scheme was closed without advance notice on 19 February 2024.
  • Homes for Ukraine: this programme aims to match Ukrainian applicants and their immediate family (who may be Ukrainian or of another nationality) with UK based individual sponsors who, since 19 February 2024, must be British citizens or have permanent residence in the UK. The visa does not entail a fee. People have to apply from outside the UK.
  • Ukraine Extension Scheme: This scheme is available to Ukrainians who previously held permission to be in the UK and that permission expired on or after 1 January 2022 or who held permission to be in the UK on or between 18 March 2022 and 16 November 2023 – the permission does not need to cover the whole period. Applications to the scheme must be made before 16 May 2024.

Rights associated with status

  • Residence permit: upon arrival in the UK, persons receive a biometric residence permit. All schemes offer three-year visas. As of 19 February 2024 this was reduced to 18 months for successful applicants to the Homes for Ukraine scheme.
  • Labour market, social welfare and health care: all beneficiaries have access to work and all public funds, as they are exempt from the habitual residence test which usually restricts access in the first months after arrival. They are not required to pay the surcharge usually applied to visa beneficiaries to access healthcare via the NHS.
  • Housing: The government surveyed sponsors in August 2023 and published experimental statistics which showed that around half (48%) of hosts had provided accommodation for 12 months or more. Almost all (99%) believed that their guests needed help to access private rental accommodation or to make other independent living arrangements. 31% of hosts reported bias or discrimination against Ukrainians by landlord or estate agencies.[22]
  • Financial support for hosts: There is no financial support available to the hosting family under the Ukraine Family Scheme. Hosts in the Homes for Ukraine receive £350 per week as a ‘thank you’ payment for the first 12 months, increased to £500 after the first year, up to a maximum of two years. The local authority also receives funding for each arrival.




[1]Home Office, Official Statistics: Irregular migration to the UK, year endings December 2023, 29 February 2024, available at: https://tinyurl.com/26ut7y5f

[2] UNHCR, Asylum screening in the UK, 26 May 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3SGBFQ0.  

[3] Home Office, Immigration system statistics data tables, Asylum applications, initial decisions and resettlement detailed datasets, year ending December 2023, table Asy_D02, 29 February 2024, available at: https://tinyurl.com/bdhnwfkr.

[4] Home Office, ‘Afghan Resettlement Programme: operational data, January 2022, available at: https://bit.ly/3VklW8Z.

[5] As the applicable Immigration Rules are at Appendix FM https://bit.ly/3uzaP4B, not Appendix Family Reunion https://bit.ly/3T8uiT0.  

[6] Immigration Rules, Appendix Family Reunion..

[7] Supreme Court, R (on the application of AAA (Syria) and others) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2023] UKSC 42, available at: https://tinyurl.com/y6sr5ukw.

[8] Home Office, Policy paper: Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Bill: factsheet, 26 January 2024, available at: https://tinyurl.com/m5649ae8.

[9] Section 2, Illegal Migration Act 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3OQmtPa.

[10] available at: https://bit.ly/3uFiVbV.  

[11] See e.g. Public Accounts Committee, Asylum Accommodation and UK-Rwanda partnership, 15 April 2024, available at: https://tinyurl.com/2p9h8mzt.

[12] The Guardian, ‘Asylum seeker housing conditions under scrutiny at third ex-military site’, 14 January 2021, available at: https://bit.ly/39n1f7m. This report includes links to others and summarises concerns.

[13] Home Office, ‘Promotional material: Wethersfield: factsheet’, updated 29 February 2024, available at: https://tinyurl.com/4cjshbms.

[14] Home Office, ‘Promotional material: Scampton factsheet’, updated 1 March 2024, available at: https://tinyurl.com/4bn4k8rc.

[15] Home Office, ‘Promotional material: Portland Port: factsheet’, updated 29 December 2023, available at: https://tinyurl.com/336kyz97.

[16] Diane Taylor, ‘Bibby Stockholm asylum seeker who died in suspected suicide is named’, The Guardian, 18 December 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3wru2G1.  

[17] Home Office, Failure to travel to Bibby Stockholm vessel: caseworker guidance, 13 March 2024, available at: https://bit.ly/3OShy09.  

[18] Illegal Migration Act 2023, s 12, available at: https://bit.ly/48uU0W6.  

[19] Humnyntskyi & Ors, R (On the Application Of) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWHC 1912 (Admin), available at: https://bit.ly/4bH5toB.  

[20] UNHCR, Evaluation of the Refugee and Migrant Advice Service’s Alternative to detention pilot, 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/49KNkEp.  

[21] Immigration Minister, Illegal migration update Statement UIN HCWS837, 8 June 2023, available at: https://bit.ly/3OQ7d4Q

[22] Office for National Statistics, ‘Experiences of Homes for Ukraine scheme sponsors, UK: 10 to 21 August 2023’, 4 October 2023, available at: https://tinyurl.com/27v2ax7n.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection