Rise in UK asylum applications looks to have levelled off

Asylum applications have fallen slightly from their recent 20-year peak (Yui Mok/PA)
Asylum applications have fallen slightly from their recent 20-year peak (Yui Mok/PA) Asylum applications have fallen slightly from their recent 20-year peak (Yui Mok/PA)

The recent rise in asylum applications to the UK looks to have levelled off, figures show.

A total of 75,340 applications were recorded in the year to September 2023, relating to 93,296 people.

This is down slightly year-on-year from 76,094 applications relating to 92,766 people in the 12 months to September 2022, according to the Home Office.

It is also lower than the total for the year to December 2022 (81,130 applications relating to 99,939 people), which was the highest for any 12-month period since 2002.

The figures had been on an upwards trend since early 2021, following a dip during the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in 2020.

One asylum application does not always equal one individual, as an application can cover a group of people.

POLITICS Migrants Asylum
POLITICS Migrants Asylum (PA Graphics)

A total of 165,411 individuals were waiting for an initial decision on an asylum application in the UK at the end of September, up from 148,533 a year earlier, but below the record high of 175,457 at the end of June.

Separate figures published last week by the Home Office, covering a more recent time period, show the backlog of asylum applications – rather than individuals – stood at 122,585 as of October 29 this year, down 12% from a record 138,782 at the end of February.

The “legacy” backlog of asylum applications stood at 33,253 as of October 29, down nearly a half (47%) from 62,157 on July 30.

Asylum applications made before June 28 2022 are counted as legacy cases.

The Government has pledged to clear the legacy backlog by the end of this year.

To do so, around 16,630 applications would need to be cleared per month before December 31.

Some 12,620 were cleared between September 24 and October 29, and 9,604 cleared between August 27 and September 24, figures show.

The non-legacy backlog of UK asylum cases – covering applications made on or after June 28 2022 – stood at 89,332 on October 29, up 20% from 74,622 on July 30.

The new figures published on Thursday also show there were 41,858 initial decisions made on asylum applications in the UK in the year to September 2023, more than double the 16,444 in the year to September 2022.

It is also above the 20,766 decisions made in the pre-pandemic calendar year of 2019.

Three-quarters (75%) of initial decisions on asylum applications in the year to September 2023 were grants of refugee status, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave.

This is “substantially higher” than in pre-pandemic years, when around a third of initial decisions were grants, the Home Office said.

The grant rate has been above 70% since 2021.

Before then, the previous high was in 1990, when it stood at 82%, although the volume of applications was much lower at that time.

Afghans were the most common nationality applying for asylum in the UK in the year to September 2023, responsible for 10,305 applications or 14% of the total.

Iranians were the second most common nationality with 7,174 applications (10% of the total).