Freedom of movement

United Kingdom

Country Report: Freedom of movement Last updated: 24/04/24


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Movement is not restricted to defined areas, but temporary admission or bail, which is the usual status of asylum seekers, is usually conditional on residence at a particular address, and there is a requirement to keep the Home Office informed of any change of address.

Asylum seekers accommodated by the Home Office are not permitted to stay away from their accommodation, and the Home Office will cease providing accommodation in practice if an asylum seeker stays elsewhere for more than a few days.[1]

Allocation to accommodation is done by the private company, which manages property in the relevant region on the basis of the availability of housing.[2] The initial allocation to a region and to an initial accommodation centre is arranged after the screening interview. The availability of housing in a region depends on procurement by the private company, which is affected by local housing markets, and local authority policy. There has been an increase in the use of institutional accommodation including repurposed military barracks, which has resulted in media attention.[3]

Asylum seekers are provided with accommodation on a no choice basis and this may be at a considerable distance from where they made their initial claim.[4] If a person can establish that there are exceptional circumstances then they may be able to request a specific location.[5] There is no appeal against the location allocated but decisions can be challenged by judicial review.[6]

Asylum seekers live among the rest of the population and have no restrictions on their freedom of movement except that imposed by lack of resources and the requirement to stay at the allocated address. That they stay at the address is monitored by routine visits by the housing providers, and for some by the requirement to report regularly (anything from twice weekly to every six months) at a regional Home Office reporting centre although the requirement for most new asylum applicants, if recently arrived in the country, has been reduced as a matter of policy (the powers remain unchanged).[7] Privacy International has worked on the issue of surveillance using the ASPEN payment card and reported on its campaigning correspondence in May 2021.[8]




[1] Practice based observation by the expert, January 2024.

[2] Home Office, Living in dispersal accommodation, 25 May 2023, available at:  

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

[4] Section 97, Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, available at:  

[5] Home Office guidance, ‘Allocation of accommodation’, available at:  

[6] See e.g. Garden Court Chambers, ‘Permission granted for judicial review in relation to student asylum seeker’s forced relocation’, 13 March 2024, available at:

[7] Home Office, Reporting and offender management – Version 6.0, 19 January 2023, available at:

[8] Privacy International, ‘the UK Home Office still has questions to answer about the Aspen Card’, 12 May 2021, available at:

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