Click here to see the numbers and origins of refugees hosted by the United Kingdom.
For United Kingdom country of information (COI) experts, reports, commentaries and relevant documents, please click here.
To be legally recognised as a refugee (this is called Refugee Status Determination), a person must satisfy the definition provided in the 1951 Refugee Convention.
Decisions on asylum claims made in the UK are made by UK Visas and Immigration, which is an agency of the Home Office (a UK Government Department).
An applicant wanting to claim asylum in the UK must register and have a screening at an asylum intake unit. Contact details for the asylum intake unit.
It is not legally possible to apply for asylum from outside the UK.
An immigration solicitor or caseworker may be needed to provide legal assistance. They must be registered with OISC before being able to give advice. Check here if registered with OISC.
There are two ways of accessing immigration and asylum representation:
1) Private solicitors at regulated law firms. They will charge fees.
2) Legal aid schemes with solicitors working pro bono. Also, organisations/charities offering free legal advice may be able to assist
Legal aid is available for legal advice to anyone living in the UK or abroad who qualifies financially.
Find out if eligible for legal aid:
- Citizens Advice website explains the financial conditions for getting civil legal aid.
- Government website includes an online tool to check if an applicant can get legal aid.
Asylum seekers in the United Kingdom can search for a legal aid solicitor on the Law Society’s website.
*For Afghans seeking relocation assistance to the UK
The UK recently set up the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy, ARAP. Under this new scheme, any current or former Locally Employed Staff directly employed by HMG assessed to be at serious risk of threat to life will be eligible to apply for ARAP regardless of their employment status, rank or role, or length of time served. If any current or former staff believe they now qualify or are at serious risk, they should apply by using the online form. You will be eligible to apply from any country (including Afghanistan).
Additional information for Afghans related to resettlement to the UK is available on the UNHCR UK Information and links to Afghanistan Situation page and through this site with more specific details to be made available – UK Gov Afghan citizens’ resettlement scheme.
Other helpful resources include:
- Refugee Action’s Handbook: UK Immigration Options for Afghan Citizens – Google Docs is for Afghan nationals in the UK who need information on the available immigration options for themselves or for their family members in Afghanistan.
- Refugee Action has also compiled the Asylum Guides briefings, including How a Lawyer Can Help, which explains what to expect from solicitors and legal advice
Afghan Pro Bono Initiative (APBI)
Launched in March 2022, the Afghan Pro Bono Initiative is a project by Refugee Legal Support and Safe Passage International, in collaboration with 14 commercial law firms, who provide funding and pro bono capacity. The project aims to support people fleeing Afghanistan with essential legal support and information. Among other things, the project will:
- Help people apply to be reunited with their family their family in the UK and access the Afghan Relocation and Assistance Policy (ARAP)
- Provide information on the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme
For case referrals for the Afghan Pro Bono Initiative, please contact – firstname.lastname@example.org with details of the case. For general queries about the project, reach out to email@example.com
Below is a list of pro bono organisations that support refugees in the UK and provide them legal aid.
The Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants
Irregular Migrants Helpline: 020 7553 7470 (Mon, Tues and Thurs 10am-1pm.)
Supporting vulnerable individuals and families with reliable, high-quality legal advice. Assisting with all areas of asylum and immigration law and are recognised as experts in this field.
Law Centres Network
Find your local law centre contact details here.
Law Centres offer free legal advice, casework and representation to individuals and groups on immigration, asylum and EUSS issues.
Migrant Help provides independent advice and guidance to assist asylum seekers in the UK move through and understand the asylum process.
We can advise you in your language on issues such as:
- How to claim asylum
- Navigating the asylum process
- Applying for asylum support including accommodation
- Notifying the Home Office if your circumstances change
- Finding legal representation
- Accessing healthcare
- Support during the post-decision period – read about the support available after positive decision here, and negative decision here
- Other asylum and post-asylum claim related matters
We can signpost you to other helpful services in your area by telephone or in person, just talk to an adviser or call our helpline.
Other national social assistance:
ASAP: Asylum Support Appeals Project – support right to food and shelter.
Refugee Action – Provide expert advice and guidance to those struggling to navigate the asylum system. Help those with refugee status to settle into their new homes and communities – everything from helping children into schools, to support booking doctors appointments, and ensuring a hot meal on arrival.
Refugee Council – Provides crisis advice and practical support, and helps integration into the new communities and offers mental health counselling.
Room for Refugees
Refugee Legal Support
Safe Passage International – specialises in helping lone children in Europe looking to reunite with their families. You are requested to fill out a downloadable form from the website and send to the email included in the form.
Cardinal Hume Centre
Refugee Law Clinic – referrals from partner organisations only, for advice and preparation of fresh claims.
Hackney Migrant Centre
Lewisham Refugee and Migrant Network
Southwark Migrant Legal Action
South London Refugee Association
Bristol Refugee Rights
Other organisations listed in Bristol can be found here.
Refugee Support Devon
University of Exeter – Immigration Clinic
University of Plymouth – Immigration and Refugee Law Clinic
Manuel Bravo Project – provide free legal assistance to asylum seekers with First Tier Tribunal appeals and fresh claims.
Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) – provide legal advice and representation to migrants detained in removal centres and prisons to help them secure their release.
Gatwick Detainees Welfare Group – support those detained in Tinsley House or Brook House IRC.
Kent Refugee Help – support those held in prisons around Kent and London.
Medical Justice – independent medical advice and assessments.
SOAS Detention Support Group
FOR LEGAL ADVISORS:
ATLEU: Anti Trafficking and Labour Exploitation Unit
Helen Bamber Foundation – referrals-only service
Poppy Legal – providing legal advice to potential and recognised victims of trafficking.