Press office

Our press office can supply information and comments on refugee and asylum issues and arrange interviews with spokespeople from across the organisation.

We work within a network of support agencies and community groups and can help put you in touch with others in the sector where relevant, including spokespeople from refugee communities on a case by case basis.

Contact us

Claire Thomson, Media Officer (Monday to Friday 9-5) or Pauline Diamond Salim, Media Manager (Tuesday to Friday 9-5)

Phone:  07597012042 / 07739859872

Email us to be added to our press release list.

Please note that we are working from home during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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Keep up-to-date with our latest news, or sign up to get our monthly newsletter to your inbox. You can also follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Student journalists

We are very sorry but we are currently unable to support student journalists’ requests for interviews or comment. We value the important contribution student journalists make in reporting refugee issues and hope that we will be able to work with students again at a later date. In the meantime, please see links below for further sources of info.

FAQs for journalists

How many people seeking asylum are in the UK?

The Home Office website details the numbers of asylum claims made in the UK and is updated on a quarterly basis. In the year ending March 2021, there were 26,903 asylum applications (relating to 32,411 people) in the UK and 12,968 initial decisions were made on these applications. Protection was granted to 8640 people (a 48% grant rate). This figure is 42% lower than the number of people who were granted protection in the year ending March 2020 and is the lowest number since 2012.

How many people seeking asylum are there in Scotland?

The numbers are not disaggregated for Scotland. However, as a rule of thumb, around 10% of people seeking asylum in the UK are dispersed to Scotland. Based on the figure above that would be approx. 2945 people seeking asylum dispersed to in Scotland during that period.

How many people are displaced globally ?

The latest figures available from the UNHCR shows that 82.4 million people were displaced across the world at the end of 2020.

20.7m of these people were refugees, under the UNHCR’s mandate, and 4.1m people were classed as asylum seekers.

Why do people seek asylum?

Seeking asylum means seeking safety. Most people seek safety in a third country when their lives and/or their families’ lives are in danger in their home countries.

Is seeking asylum legal?

Yes. Everyone has the right to seek asylum in another country if their life is in danger in the home country. This right is enshrined in the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees

The UK is a signatory to the Convention.

What proportion of asylum claims are successful?

In the year ending March 2021, there were 12,968 initial decisions made on asylum applications. 48% of these were positive decisions resulting in grants of asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave. The rate of positive decisions varies considerably by nationality.

Figures on appeals and their outcomes are published annually by the Home Office. For 2019, the final grant rate after appeal was 64% compared to 54% on initial decisions.

Which local communities in Scotland are people seeking asylum members of?

Almost all of government provided housing for people seeking asylum is in Glasgow.

What is the difference between the legal statuses of ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’?

A person seeking protection in the UK is classed as an asylum seeker until the Home Office makes a decision on an asylum claim. This process can take many months. People waiting for decisions currently do not have the right to work, access the welfare system or access mainstream housing.

If the Home Office makes a positive decision on an asylum claim, a person will be granted refugee status and leave to remain in the UK. Currently, having refugee status means having five years of leave to remain in the UK. After a person has held refugee status for five years, they may then apply for indefinite leave to remain. After one year of indefinite leave to remain, an application for British citizenship can be made .

It is always worth remembering that ‘asylum seeker’ and ‘refugee’ are administrative categories that are applied to people. These categories do not define a person’s identity.

What support are people entitled to in Scotland?

Before a decision is made on a person’s asylum claim, support is very limited. The Home Office currently states that each person is given £39.63 per week, which is loaded onto a debit card (what’s referred to as the ASPEN card). However, many people seeking asylum were moved into institutional accommodation like during the COVID-19 pandemic and were no longer entitled to this allowance. In November 2020, it was announced that people in this accommodation would be given £8 per week.

What do we mean by institutional accommodation?

By institutional accommodation, we mean the use of places like barracks or hotel rooms to house people seeking protection, often on a temporary basis. This is instead of placing people in flats or houses within communities, where integration is more easily facilitated and people are able to have control over their own lives.

How do people reach Scotland?

People are mainly ‘dispersed’ to Scotland by the Home Office from south east England.

How many people are in Scotland via the resettlement programme?

Around 3000 people were resettled through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme across Scotland’s council areas.

Which parts of Scotland are part of the resettlement scheme?

People who have come to Scotland via the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) are dispersed across all of Scotland’s local authority areas.

CoSLA performs a coordination role between Scottish local authorities and the Home Office to identify suitable resettlement locations for families and individuals based on their needs and circumstances. All of Scotland’s councils are supportive of the scheme.

What are the main nationalities of people seeking protection in Scotland/the UK?

Most people are from countries affected by civil wars, terrorism and where human rights violations are widespread. According to Home Office statistics, the top ten countries of origin for people seeking protection in the UK in the year ending March 2021 were:

  1. Iran
  2. Albania
  3. Eritrea
  4. Iraq
  5. Sudan
  6. Syria
  7. Afghanistan
  8. Pakistan
  9. Vietnam
  10. India

The top ten countries people who access Scottish Refugee Council services have come from are below.

The top ten countries individuals who access our Refugee Integration Service come from are:

  1. Iran
  2. Iraq
  3. Sudan
  4. El Salvador
  5. Nigeria
  6. Syria
  7. Eritrea
  8. Pakistan
  9. Vietnam
  10. Kuwait

The top ten countries individuals who access Scottish Refugee Council’s Destitution Service come from are:

  1. Iraq
  2. Iran
  3. Syria
  4. Egypt
  5. Pakistan
  6. Zimbabwe
  7. Eritrea
  8. Sudan
  9. Namibia
  10. Afghanistan

The top ten countries individuals who access Scottish Refugee Council’s Family Keywork Service come from are:

  1. Namibia
  2. Iraq
  3. Syria
  4. Nigeria
  5. Pakistan
  6. Sudan
  7. China
  8. Albania
  9. Iran
  10. Zimbabwe

What is Scottish Refugee Council’s response to the Home Office’s proposed changes to the UK’s asylum system?

Scottish Refugee Council is deeply worried by the proposals made by the Home Secretary in March 2021 of changes to the UK’s asylum system.

Our statement on these changes can be found on our website, and we will publish our submission to the Home Office consultation on these proposals shortly.

Have people from Afghanistan begun to arrive in the UK?

The recent evacuations from Afghanistan – which have now ended – took place under the UK Government’s Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) and Ex-Gratia Scheme, which are separate arrangements that were launched before the current crisis began.

On Wednesday 18 August, the Prime Minister announced that the UK would resettle 20,000 people (mainly women and children) fleeing the Taliban as part of a new Afghanistan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme. This scheme will be open to “people in the region” and will include 5,000 people within the first year. Although we welcome this commitment, we are still waiting for more information about how the scheme will work in practice, when it will begin and who is eligible for resettlement.

The UK Government has confirmed that if the Nationality and Borders Bill is passed, anyone arriving in the UK from Afghanistan via an “irregular route” will not be eligible for asylum and could face criminalisation. This will apply to Afghan refugees who are not chosen to be part of a resettlement scheme.

What's the difference between Ex-Gratia, ARAP and the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme?

The Ex-Gratia Scheme is due to run until 30 November 2022. It is only open to Afghans employed by the UK Government with at least 12 months continuous service on the frontline. The scheme was launched in 2013 to support locally employed staff, who had, or would, lose their jobs as a direct result of the UK military’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Those eligible can apply for relocation to the UK for a period of 5 years. They will be offered the chance to apply for Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK at the end of this 5-year period.

The Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy (ARAP) scheme was launched in April this year. It aims to resettle Afghan nationals who currently work, or have previously worked, for the UK Government in Afghanistan and whose lives are at risk from the Taliban as a result. The UK government expects to relocate 5,000 people to the UK this year through the ARAP scheme.

In addition, the UK Government has announced that 20,000 Afghan refugees who have been forced from their homes by the current crisis will be resettled in the UK as part of the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme. This scheme, which is separate from ARAP, aims to welcome a further 5,000 Afghans in the first year. Priority will be given to vulnerable groups including women, girls and children.

The Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme has not yet begun and we are still waiting for details about how it will work in practice.

When will the Afghan Citizens' Resettlement Scheme begin?

The people of Afghanistan need help now, but we’re still waiting for clarity from the UK Government. Details about who will be eligible for the scheme, how it will be delivered and when it will begin have not yet been released.

We’re calling for the UK Government to start welcoming Afghans fleeing conflict and persecution right away. We’ll share updates and information as soon as we know more.

You can read a full list of our policy recommendations on the resettlement scheme here.

How many Afghan refugees are expected to arrive in the UK through these schemes?

The UK Government has said it will resettle 20,000 people fleeing Afghanistan as part of the Afghan Citizen’s Resettlement Scheme. Within the first year, the scheme aims to welcome 5,000 people, mainly women and children.

It is expected that a further 5,000 Afghans who worked for the UK Government in Afghanistan will be resettled in the UK this year, under the Afghan Relocations and Assistance Policy.

We can’t be sure how many people will make the long and difficult journey to the UK to seek asylum on our shores. We’re urging the UK Government to rethink the Nationality and Borders Bill. If passed in its current form, it will make arriving here to claim asylum by an “irregular route” illegal. This would mean people fleeing for their lives could face criminalisation and time in jail, just for travelling to the UK to seek safety.

We’re also calling for these relocation and resettlement schemes to be broader and more flexible, so that more people can reach safety quickly.

It is not yet clear how many Afghan refugees will arrive in Scotland, although the Scottish Government has confirmed that we are ready and willing to welcome people fleeing the Taliban.

What is a resettlement programme?

Sometimes referred to as “safe and legal routes”, resettlement programmes relocate small numbers of people to the UK. Often, those eligible to apply for resettlement are already living in refugee camps near the region or country that they have fled. These schemes usually involve extensive vetting procedures.

While we welcome any commitment to a resettlement programme, it’s important that these schemes don’t overshadow the importance of protecting the precious human right of claiming asylum.

Resettlement programmes should not only be set up in response to emergencies. They should be an ongoing part of a fair and humane asylum system. Under the UN Refugee Convention, people seeking safety have the right to claim asylum in the UK, regardless of how they reach our shores.

The majority of men, women and children forced to flee their homes because of war, persecution or human rights abuses, do so at short notice and by any means possible. Most do not meet the strict criteria of current resettlement schemes.

As well as welcoming refugees fleeing the Taliban, we’re calling on the UK Government to commit to resettling an additional 10,000 people from around the world who are seeking safety every year.