Accredited official statistics

How many people do we grant asylum or protection to?

Updated 3 March 2022

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This is not the latest release. View latest release.

Data relate to 2021 and all comparisons are with 2020, unless indicated otherwise.

On 11 March 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a global pandemic. A range of restrictions were implemented in many parts of the world, and the first UK lockdown measures were announced on 23 March 2020. The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the UK immigration system, both in terms of restricting migrant movements to and from the UK and the impact on operational capacity.

Year ending comparisons that follow will include impacts resulting from the restrictions put in place during this period of the pandemic.

This section contains data on:

  • Asylum applications and initial decisions, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC)
  • Resettlement
  • Family reunion visas granted
  • Outcomes of asylum applications
  • Asylum support
  • Inadmissibility

An asylum application may relate to more than one person, if the applicant has family members (or ‘dependants’) which they request to be covered by the same application. This release features data on both the number of asylum applications or initial decisions (‘main applicants only’), and the number of people related to asylum applications and initial decisions (‘main applicants and dependants’).

Statistics on the number of applications and decisions of those applying to enter or remain in the UK under the new Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) route are included in the ‘How many people come to the UK each year (including visitors)’ section.

1. People granted protection and other leave through asylum and resettlement routes

This section covers individuals granted leave to remain in the UK via three routes: applying for asylum, resettlement, and family reunion visas.

The UK offered protection, in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection, alternative forms of leave and resettlement, to 14,734 people (including dependants) in 2021. Of these:

  • 81% were granted refugee status following an asylum application (‘asylum’)
  • 6% were granted humanitarian protection
  • 2% were granted alternative forms of leave (such as discretionary leave, UASC leave)
  • 11% were granted refugee status through resettlement schemes

Additionally, 6,134 partners and children of refugees living in the UK were granted entry to the UK through family reunion visas, 28% more than the previous year.

Provisional data show more than 7,000 people have been relocated under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) since it launched in April 2021. For further information on statistics relating to ARAP and the Afghanistan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS), see the Resettlement section below.

Figure 1: People granted asylum-related protection, resettlement and family reunion visas in the UK, years ending December 2012 to December 2021 1,2,3,4

Source: Asylum applications, initial decisions and resettlement – Asy_D02


  1. In this chart, ‘Asylum-related grants’ are grants that resulted from an asylum application. These include asylum and other grants where the individual does not meet the criteria for asylum (e.g. humanitarian protection, discretionary leave, grants under family and private life rules, leave outside the rules and UASC leave).
  2. The asylum-related grants data refers to grants at initial decision. The final number of grants following appeal will be higher.
  3. Grants of family reunion visas are not included in the ‘Total asylum & resettlement’ figure.
  4. Includes main applicants and dependants.

Figure 1 shows that the number of people granted protection following an application for asylum peaked in 2015-16 (during the ‘European migration crisis’) and again just prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, after which applications fell sharply. For resettlement, the number of people resettled rose after the ‘European migration crisis’ and remained at a high level until March 2020, when resettlement activity had to pause due to the pandemic. In comparison, the number of family reunion visas granted has remained at a consistent level with a gradual increase over the years, and little reduction following the COVID-19 pandemic.

The number of people offered protection in 2021 (either following an application for asylum or through a resettlement scheme) was 49% higher than the previous year, and similar to levels seen from 2015 to 2018. This rise (from 9,895 in 2020 to 14,734 in 2021) is accounted for by an increase in the number of grants of asylum at initial decision while the number of refusals has decreased.

The data in this section includes only those granted asylum or alternative forms of leave at initial decision following an asylum application. However, there will be additional people who receive a grant of protection following an appeal against an initial refusal (see sections below on outcomes and appeals).

1.1 Resettlement

There were 1,587 people granted protection through resettlement schemes in 2021. This is 93% higher than in the previous year when resettlement had to be paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, resettlement levels have not yet returned to levels seen in the earlier period following the introduction of the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), which was introduced initially in response to the situation of Syrian refugees (over 5,000 people were resettled each year from 2016 to 2019, predominantly through the VPRS).

In the year 2021:

  • 71% were resettled through the UK Resettlement scheme (UKRS), 20% through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme and Vulnerable Children Resettlement Scheme (both of which closed at the end of February 2021), and the remainder through the Mandate Scheme and Community Sponsorship schemes
  • the most common nationalities of those resettled were Syrian (76%), Iraqi (8%) and Sudanese (3%)
  • since the first arrivals under the new UK Resettlement scheme in March 2021, 1,131 refugees have been resettled in the UK via the UKRS

More information about current and previous resettlement schemes can be found in the user guide.

The Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) opened in January 2022. The first eligible person was relocated under the scheme on 6 January 2022 (after the period referred to in this publication). Statistics on the number of people relocated under the scheme in 2022 Q1 will be included in subsequent editions of Immigration Statistics.

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) launched on 1 April 2021. Provisional data show more than 7,000 people have been relocated under the scheme so far. Following the evacuation from Afghanistan over the summer, work is underway to ensure information relating to all the individuals relocated are recorded on case working systems. Once this work concludes, further statistics on the ARAP will be included in editions of the Immigration Statistics.

Further details on the ACRS and ARAP can be found in the FACTSHEET: ACRS and other routes and Operation Warm Welcome: progress update.

2. Asylum applications

There were 48,540 asylum applications (relating to 56,495 people) in the UK in 2021. This is 63% more than the previous year and the highest number for almost two decades. As shown in Figure 2, it is higher than at the peak of the European Migration crisis (36,546 in year ending June 2016), and is the highest number of asylum applications in the UK since the year ending December 2003 (49,407). It is, however, around half the level of the previous peak in 2002 (84,132 applications), which was partly driven by military action, conflict or political unrest in countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe and Somalia.

Figure 2: Asylum applications lodged in the UK, years ending December 2002 to December 2021 1

Source: Asylum applications, initial decisions and resettlement – Asy_D01


  1. Main applicants only.

The increase in applications is likely linked in part to the easing of global travel restrictions that were in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and to a sharp increase in small boat arrivals to the UK (of which almost all claim asylum; for further details on small boat arrivals, see the ‘Irregular migration to the UK’ release). Applications fell substantially in 2020 Q2, following the initial COVID-19 outbreak. However, they have since increased and for Q3 and Q4 of 2021, are now substantially higher than levels seen prior to the outbreak - there were 18,766 applications for asylum in Q4 2021, 141% more applications than the same period in 2020, and 89% more when compared to the same period in 2019.

2.1 Applications by nationality, age and sex

Iran was the top nationality claiming asylum in the UK in 2021 (9,800 applications), as it has been in every year since 2016.

Figure 3 shows that the number of applications for eight of the top ten nationalities have surpassed not only those of 2020 (a year affected by the pandemic), but also those prior to the pandemic (these 10 nationalities submitted 22,410 applications in 2019, and 37,140 in 2021, a 66% increase from 2019).

Many of the nationalities with the largest increases between 2020 and 2021 are also the most common nationalities arriving via small boats.

Figure 3: Top 10 nationalities1 claiming asylum in the UK, 2019 to 2021, and grant rate2 at initial decision (%), 2021

Source: Asylum applications, initial decisions and resettlement – Asy_D01 and Asy_D02


  1. Top 10 nationalities in the most recent year (excluding Stateless); main applicants only.

  2. The percentages in the chart are the grant rate at initial decision for each nationality in the most recent year. Grant rate is the proportion of initial decisions which resulted in a grant of protection or other leave.

Figure 3 also shows the grant rate for the top 10 nationalities applying for asylum, half of which have a grant rate above 80% (Iran 89%, Eritrea 97%, Syria 99%, Afghanistan 81%, and Sudan 96%). For more detail on grant rates, see the initial decision section below.

Table 1: Individuals applying for asylum as a proportion of the total, by age and sex in 2021.

Age Male Female
Under 18 11% 5%
18-29 46% 6%
30-49 21% 7%
50-69 1% 1%
70+ <1% <1%

Source: Asylum applications, initial decisions and resettlement – Asy_D01


  1. Includes main applicants and dependants.
  2. Percentages may differ when summed due to rounding.

Table 1 shows that of the 56,495 people applying for asylum in the latest year, two thirds (67%) were males aged 18 to 49. Children (under the age of 18) accounted for around a sixth (17%) of people applying for asylum.

There were 3,762 applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC), similar to the number prior to the COVID-19 pandemic (3,775 in 2019).

2.2 International comparisons

In the year ending September 2021 (the latest available comparable statistics), the number of people (including dependants) claiming asylum in the EU+ (countries in the EU, EEA and Switzerland) decreased by 4%, while in the UK it increased by 11%.

In the year ending September 2021, Germany received the highest number of asylum applicants (127,730) in the EU+, followed by France (96,510). When compared with the EU+ for the year ending September 2021, the UK received the 4th largest number of applicants (44,190 – including both main applicants and dependents). This equates to 8% of the total asylum applicants across the EU+ and UK combined over that period, but the 18th largest intake when measured per head of population.

Figure 4: The number of asylum applicants to the UK and the top three countries in the EU+, year ending September 2017 to September 2021 1,2,3

Source: Eurostat Asylum statistics, and Asylum applications, initial decisions and resettlement – Asy_D01 and Asy_D02


  1. Top 3 countries in the EU+ receiving asylum applicants in the most recent year.

  2. Includes main applicants and dependants.

  3. Data for the UK is sourced from Home Office data.

Figure 4 shows that the UK receives fewer applications when compared to Germany, France or Spain, and that the number of applications to the UK have remained fairly stable (while applications to Germany, France and Spain have seen larger fluctuations over the years).

Please note that Eurostat data are not directly comparable with Home Office Immigration Statistics data. Eurostat figures combine main applicants and dependants, and as such that is how international comparisons have been presented in this section. For a full list of differences between Eurostat and Home Office asylum statistics, see the user guide.

3. Outcomes of asylum applications

3.1 At initial decision

In 2021, there were 14,572 initial decisions made on asylum applications, 2% higher than in 2020. Although the number of decisions has increased in the last year, they remain below levels seen before the pandemic (there were 20,766 decisions in 2019).

Almost three quarters (72%) of the initial decisions in 2021 were grants (of asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave), which is substantially higher than the previous years. For much of the past decade, around a third of initial decisions were grants. The grant rate in 2021 is the highest grant rate in over thirty years (since 82% in 1990).

The low number of refusals in 2021 is predominantly related to a 98% decrease in third country refusals (from 2,952 in 2020 to 50 in 2021). A third country refusal refers to the UK determining that it is not the country responsible for considering a person’s asylum claim, to return them to the safe third country in which the person was previously present or with which they have some other connection. The use of this decision outcome has been affected by the UK leaving the EU. Prior to leaving the EU, the UK processed most third country cases in accordance with the Dublin regulation (which applies to all EU member states as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein); however, this ceased to apply to the UK from 1 January 2021. New inadmissibility rules, which in part aim to replace the previous operation of the Dublin regulation, were introduced on 1 January 2021 (see the Inadmissibility section of this release below).

The overall grant rate can vary for a number of reasons, including the protection needs of those who claim asylum in the UK, along with operational resourcing and policy decisions. Grant rates vary considerably by nationality as the protection needs of specific groups or individuals differ, usually depending on the situation in their home country. Of nationalities that commonly claim asylum in the UK, Sudanese, Eritreans and Syrians typically have very high grant rates at initial decision (96%, 97% and 99% respectively), while nationals of India, for example, have low grant rates (5%; see Figure 3).

3.2 At appeal

Some initial decisions (mainly, but not entirely, refusals) will go on to be appealed.

There were 4,035 appeals lodged on initial decisions in 2021. This is 17% fewer than the previous year, in part reflecting the smaller number of applications processed due to the pandemic and the smaller number of applications refused in the latest year, but this continues a downward trend for numbers of appeals lodged since 2015 (when there were 14,242 appeals lodged).

Of the appeals resolved in 2021, almost half (49%) were allowed (meaning the applicant successfully overturned the initial decision). The proportion of appeals allowed has risen from 29% in 2010, when the time series began.

3.3 Applications awaiting outcomes

At the end of 2021, there were 81,978 cases (relating to 100,564 people) awaiting an initial decision, 60% higher than the previous year. The number of cases awaiting an initial decision has shown an overall increase in the last ten years, and more rapidly since 2018, when there were 27,256 cases awaiting an initial decision at the end of that year. Although the number of initial decisions made in 2021 rose from the previous year (up 2%, to 14,572), it has not matched the rise in asylum applications (up 63%, to 48,540 applications). This means more cases entered the asylum system than left it, resulting in an increase in cases awaiting an initial decision.

Data on the total number of cases in the asylum system (‘asylum work in progress’), including the initial decisions and also cases awaiting appeal outcomes and failed asylum seekers that are subject to removal from the UK, is published in the ‘Immigration and Protection’ data of the Migration Transparency Data collection. The latest data available (for the end of June 2021) shows a total of 125,316 cases as ‘work in progress’ in the asylum system.

4. Inadmissibility

From 1 January 2021, following the UK’s departure from the EU, strengthened inadmissibility rules came into effect. In 2021:

  • 9,622 asylum claimants were identified for consideration on inadmissibility grounds
  • 8,593 ‘notices of intent’ were issued to individuals to inform them that their case was being reviewed in order to determine whether removal action on inadmissibility grounds was appropriate and possible
  • 64 individuals were served with inadmissibility decisions, meaning the UK would not admit the asylum claim for consideration in the UK system, because another country was considered to be responsible for the claim, owing to the claimant’s previous presence in, or connection to a safe country
  • There were 11 enforced returns of individuals considered for removal on inadmissibility grounds
  • 5,269 individuals were subsequently admitted into the UK asylum process for substantive consideration of their asylum claim

These returns were made to Denmark, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

For further information, including breakdowns of the data by quarter and nationality, see Asy_09a and Asy_09b of the summary tables.

5. Support provided to asylum seekers

People in the asylum system who are destitute are entitled to a level of support. This could be the provision of accommodation, subsistence (cash support) or both.

At the end of December 2021, there were 84,457 individuals in receipt of support, 32% higher than the previous year. This continues the trend of increasing numbers in receipt of support since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, when the Home Office temporarily ceased ending asylum support for those whose claims have been either granted or refused, to ensure people were not made homeless during lockdown. This increase is also in part related to the recent increases in asylum applications.

Of the 84,457 individuals in receipt of support:

  • 94% were in receipt of support in the form of accommodation and subsistence (including 24,175 in receipt of temporary support under Section 98 of the Immigration and Asylum Act (1999))

  • 6% were in receipt of subsistence only

6. About the statistics

This section provides information on those applying for and granted protection in the UK through both asylum and resettlement routes. Further data relating to asylum and resettlement can be found in our data tables, and further details on the statistics can be found in the user guide.

The data are used to assess the trends in numbers of people seeking and being granted protection, the impact of policy changes, and to understand the demographics of those coming to the UK to claim protection. Data on resettlement and support, broken down by local authority, can help local authorities understand the demands on their services and resources to aid with planning.

6.1 Asylum, resettlement and protection

Asylum seekers are people who seek sanctuary in another country by applying for asylum – the right to be recognized as a refugee and receive protection and assistance. Asylum seekers will receive a decision on their application, which may be a grant (of asylum, or another form of protection or leave) or a refusal.

Refugees in other countries can also be given protection in the UK via resettlement schemes. The UK works with the UN Refugee Agency (the UNHCR) to arrange for the transfer of refugees from an asylum country to the UK, with the aim of ultimately granting them permanent residence. The statistics in this release do not include the resettlement of Afghan staff (and their families) who have supported British efforts in Afghanistan, since 2013. For further information, see the Home Office Afghan resettlement and immigration policy statement.

A family reunion visa allows partners and children of those previously granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK to reunite with them here.

The total number of individuals granted protection includes grants related to an asylum application (grants of asylum or alternative forms of leave) and resettlement. Alternative forms of leave include humanitarian protection, discretionary leave, UASC leave, leave outside the rules, and grants under family and private life rules.

Data on asylum applications relate to the period in which the application was lodged, and initial decisions relate to the period in which the decision was made. Initial decisions may, therefore, relate to an application made in an earlier period, and thus the two are not directly comparable.

Data on initial decisions will not reflect the total number of people granted protection through asylum routes as some initial decisions may be overturned following appeal. Data on the number of appeals lodged, and their outcomes, are published in Asylum appeals lodged and determined – Asy_D06 and Asy_D07.

UASC data includes those treated as an unaccompanied minor for at least one day between the date of application and the date of initial decision. Some UASC applicants may subsequently be found to be an adult following conclusion of an age dispute. Data on age disputes are published in Age Disputes – Asy_D05.

Eurostat asylum statistics can be used to compare asylum statistics with EU member states. The methodology used to compile Eurostat data differs from that used in this release; see the user guide for further details.

6.2 Support provided to asylum seekers

The data on support includes support provided under Section 95, Section 98 and Section 4. Further details on these types of support can be found in the user guide.

The data show the number of people in receipt of support on a given day, but do not show the length of time for which someone receives support or the amount of support they receive.

6.3 Inadmissibility

The inadmissibility rules provide the grounds for treating an asylum claim as inadmissible to the UK asylum system, if a person has earlier presence in, or connection to, a safe third country. It also provides for the person to be removed to that or another safe third country, with that country’s permission.

From 1 January 2021, following the UK’s departure from the EU, strengthened inadmissibility rules came into effect. Prior to the UK leaving the EU, most inadmissibility decisions were made according to the Dublin Regulation, which for the cases in its remit, established the criteria and mechanisms for determining which state was responsible for examining an application for international protection. Further details can be found in the user guide.

Data on inadmissibility are taken from internal Home Office management information and should be considered provisional. The data covers the following:

‘Identified for consideration’: Where an asylum case might be suitable for a refusal on inadmissibility grounds, case working teams will review available information to determine whether a case may be appropriate for decisions under the third country inadmissibility provisions in the Immigration Rules. If they assess that inadmissibility action might be appropriate, they will issue an individual with a ‘notice of intent’.

‘Notice of intent issued’: This is an information letter to the claimant, to inform them that their claim is being considered under inadmissibility rules. It is not a formal decision.

‘Inadmissibility decision served’ and ‘Returns’: If the case meets the inadmissibility requirements, and another country accepts the applicants return the Home Office will treat the asylum application as inadmissible under the inadmissibility rules and arrange the return. The returns figures include all enforced returns of those entering the inadmissibility process. Some of these returns may have been for reasons other than inadmissibility. For the total number of asylum-related returns (beyond those in the inadmissibility process), see the Returns summary table Ret_05.

‘Subsequently admitted into UK asylum process’: following consideration on inadmissibility grounds, where there is insufficient evidence to meet the requirements of the inadmissibility rules, or another country has not accepted responsibility for the claim within a reasonable timescale, then the asylum claim will be fully considered in the UK.

Data on transfers into and out of the UK under the Dublin Regulation (prior to the UK leaving the EU) are available in Dub_D01.

7. Data tables

Data referred to here can be found in the following tables:

Additional data relating to asylum, protection and resettlement published in earlier Immigration Statistics releases include:

Statistics on the number of applications and decisions of those applying to enter or remain in the UK under the new Hong Kong British Nationals (Overseas) route are included in the ‘How many people come to the UK each year (including visitors)?’ section.

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