FODI is committed to supporting asylum seekers and refugees in Sunderland and  to helping  their integration into the local community by promoting a better understanding of their cause. There are many common misconceptions about asylum seekers, so the explanations below should help clarify things.

WHAT IS AN ASYLUM SEEKER?

Someone who is fleeing persecution in their homeland, has arrived in another country, made themselves known to the authorities and exercised the legal right to apply for asylum.

WHAT IS A REFUGEE?

Someone whose asylum application has been successful and who is allowed to stay in another country, having proved they would face persecution in their home country. Refugees have the same rights as residents in the UK.

ARE ASYLUM SEEKERS ALLOWED TO WORK?

Generally, no. The law in the UK does not allow asylum seekers to work until they have refugee status  which can take months,  even years to achieve. Some asylum seekers are given permission to work if they are on the shortage occupation list and have had no interview or answer for 12 months. In practice, it is very difficult to get work in these circumstances. In addition,  asylum seekers are not allowed to access college courses until they have been in the UK for at least 6 months.

WHERE ARE ASYLUM SEEKERS HOUSED?

Asylum seekers are not put on housing waiting lists, but are housed by a contractor allocated by the Home Office. This accommodation is usually in a house of multiple occupancy with shared facilities. Asylum seekers do not choose where they are going to  live in the UK, but can be dispersed anywhere by the Home Office.

ARE ASYLUM SEEKERS HERE ILLEGALLY?

No. We all have the right to seek asylum. International law states that everyone has the right to apply for asylum in another country and remain there until the authorities have assessed their claim. The burden is on the person seeking asylum to prove and evidence ‘a well founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion’. (1951 UN Convention on Refugees). The UK asylum system offers this protection, but is strictly controlled and complex.

WHICH COUNTRIES DO ASYLUM SEEKERS COME FROM ?

In 2021, the top five most common countries of nationality of people who applied for asylum in the UK were Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Albania and Syria

Table 2 shows the fifteen most common countries of nationality of people (main applicants and dependants) who applied for asylum in the UK in 2021.

The share of applications that result ultimately in a grant of asylum-related protection varies significantly by nationality. For example, looking at applications received across the three-year period 2017 to 2019, the share of Syrian nationals who had received a grant of asylum or other leave by May 2021 was 92% (taking into account appeals), while for Indian nationals, it was 6% (Table 2).

Table 2

HOW MANY ASYLUM SEEKERS ARE IN SUNDERLAND?

Figures change on a regular basis as new people arrive and those with refugee status move on. At the moment, September 2022, there are about 500 asylum seekers in Sunderland including dependants.

HOW DOES THE UK COMPARE WITH OTHER COUNTRIES FOR ASYLUM APPLICATIONS?

When compared against EU+ countries, in 2021 the UK ranked 6th in the absolute number of people to whom it gave protection, comprising asylum seekers and resettled refugees

With regard to the in-country asylum process, in 2021, the UK received around 56,500 asylum applicants, the fourth highest when compared with the EU+ (the EU-27 plus Switzerland and the three EEA countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway). In the same year, the UK granted asylum or another form of protection to around 13,000 people (at initial decision, excluding appeals), placing it sixth in the league table. Germany ranks first on both measures, receiving around 191,000 asylum applicants in 2021, and granting asylum-related protection to around 60,000 people at initial decision that year (Figure 10).

When adjusting for population size, the UK ranks 18th when compared with the EU+, having granted protection in 2021 to two asylum seekers per 10,000 of its resident population of 67 million.

Figure 10

These figures do not include people given protection under refugee resettlement programmes. Under such programmes, the UK resettled around 33,000 refugees from 2008 to 2021 (all the years for which data are available), behind first-place Sweden, which resettled 40,000. When adjusting for population, the UK falls to 11th in the league table. In 2021, the UK resettled around 1,600 refugees, down from 5,600 the previous year, whilst Sweden and Germany resettled over 6,000 people each in 2021 (Figure 11).

For more information, please see the following websites:

www.cityofsanctuary.org

www.redcross.org.uk

Asylum and resettlement datasets – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)