Disentangling the ‘Refugee Narrative’ | A Look at The UK’s Asylum Statistics

In lands afar where shadows creep,
They seek refuge from strife so deep.
A sea-crossed journey in boats small,
In the hope of sanctuary they install.

Through bottleneck of claims they thread,
Yearning for a peaceful homestead.
For in their hearts, one wish they keep,
A life safe from the nightmares’ sweep.



Having worked with asylum seekers between 1993-1999 and managing a Kent-based service called Finding your Feet teaching English and integration to unaccompanied refugee children from 2005-2008 during a career focussing on Housing, Homelessness and other welfare-related projects and services, I maintain an educated interest in these issues.

Dispelling Fake News and Politics: The Real Picture of Refugees in the UK

As we navigate through the torrents of misinformation and political divide that often cloud the reality of our world, it’s crucial to ground ourselves in facts and figures, particularly regarding the crucial issue of asylum seekers and refugees. The Refugee Council recently published some eye-opening statistics that accurately portray the situation in the UK as of March 2023. It’s high time we clarify these facts and address the potential impacts on domestic welfare issues like housing, health, education, and employment.

The Rise in Asylum Applications: Displacement as the Main Driver

The UK saw 75,492 asylum applications (related to 91,047 individuals) in the year ending March 2023. This 33% increase in applications from the previous year.  This increase is mainly due to the escalating number of individuals displaced globally due to wars and conflicts.

This increase is mainly due to the escalating number of individuals displaced globally due to wars and conflicts.

Top Originating Countries: An Overview

The top five countries of origin of asylum seekers in the same period were Albania, Afghanistan, Iran, India, and Iraq, highlighting the geopolitical challenges these countries face.

Asylum Applications and the UK’s European Rank

When comparing the number of asylum applications per head of population, the UK ranks 22nd highest in Europe. It’s crucial to remember this fact amid the fiery discourse on the country’s refugee influx.

When we measure asylum applications per head of the population, the UK only ranks 22nd highest in Europe.

Arrival by Small Boats: An Increasing Trend

A common myth is that the UK is overrun with ‘boat people’ seeking asylum. While 16,519 individuals were detected arriving in small boats between October 2022 to March 2023, this number has only slightly increased from the previous year. Not all those crossing the Channel claim asylum in the UK, but of those who do, only 1% had their cases decided by the end of March 2023. Among these, a total 61% were granted refugee status or other leave.

The Asylum Process: The Long Wait for Decisions

As part of the Dublin III arrangements’ cessation, the UK now seeks other countries’ agreement to process individual claims, issuing ‘notices of intent’ to asylum seekers. However, not all applicants issued with these notices have been served a decision yet. In fact, between 1st January 2021 and 31st March 2023, only 83 people were served with inadmissibility decisions, meaning their asylum claim would not be considered in the UK, and only 23 were returned to a third country.

The Backlog Challenge: A Rising Concern

While it’s easy to see these people as statistics, we must remember that these numbers represent individuals in a state of purgatory, waiting to know their fate. The backlog of cases awaiting an initial decision rose to a record high of 172,758 individuals by March 2023. Among these, 75% have been waiting for over six months. The longer they wait, the more this uncertainty impacts their mental health and ability to plan for the future.

Asylum Appeals: The Increasing Success Rate

On the brighter side, 73% of initial decisions made in the year to March 2023 were grants of protection. The number of individuals granted protection rose by 32% from the previous year to 17,872. However, the process is still not without flaws. Many refugees have to rely on courts to appeal against poor decision-making, causing lengthy and complex proceedings that prolong their ordeal.

The Government Support for Asylum Seekers

Let’s not forget the potential impact on domestic welfare issues. These refugees and asylum seekers often have limited resources and are provided with a meagre £7 per day for their basic needs. Is it possible for anyone to survive on such a small amount in the UK? Upon being awarded refugee status, they face a new challenge – the support they received stops after 28 days, leading to potential homelessness and poverty.

Upon being awarded refugee status, they face a new challenge – the support they received stops after 28 days, leading to potential homelessness and poverty.

Other Forms of Leave and the Resettlement Programmes

Our focus on these issues should not distract us from the fact that resettlement only helps a fraction of those in need. Only 1% of the world’s refugees will ever be resettled, highlighting the need for countries to work together and increase their collective effort.

Detention of Refugees: A Controversial Issue

Despite the controversies and human rights implications, the UK government continues to detain asylum seekers, including children, indefinitely. As of March 2023, 1,591 individuals were in detention, marking a 10% increase from the previous year.

Family Reunion Visas: Restrictions and Limitations

Family reunion visas provide one of the few safe and regular routes for refugees to join their loved ones in the UK. However, these rules are incredibly restrictive and often unavailable to all, leaving many in fear for the safety of their families back home.


What does this all mean? It’s clear that the situation is more nuanced than divisive politics would have us believe. It is not a simple matter of refugees ‘flooding’ the UK. In fact, our country ranks only 22nd in Europe for asylum applications per head of population. These refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom wait in limbo for years, can also contribute positively to our society if given the opportunity to do so.

So, the next time you encounter news or political rhetoric around refugees and asylum seekers, remember these numbers. And keep in mind that every statistic represents a human life, a story of survival, and a hope for a better future. Together, let’s not allow divisive politics to distract us from the real issues at hand. Instead, let’s focus on how we can better support these individuals and create a more welcoming and supportive society for all.

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About Rev Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell

Rev. Lloyd Hobbard-Mitchell, an Englishman deeply connected to Thailand, was ordained to the Sacred Priesthood on 28th May 2023.

In addition to his religious journey, he has worked as an online English teacher and pursued a career as an artist. He has also operated a tour desk business with his wife within international brand hotels.

Lloyd has extensive experience in the voluntary sector, specifically in addressing homelessness and social welfare.

He is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and embraces opportunities to meet new people, see new places, explore cultural similarities, and celebrate differences.