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Latest immigration stats: Home Office now loses most appeals

Latest immigration stats: Home Office now loses most appeals

This is a collection of statistics on the UK immigration system. The Office for National Statistics, Home Office and Courts & Tribunals Service publish regular quarterly data on the number of migrants coming to the UK, how immigration applications are processed and how appeals are disposed of. We intend to expand this post shortly and update it regularly.


Net migration is the number of immigrants coming to live in the UK minus the number of emigrants. There are well-known problems with the estimates used to calculate net migration in between censuses, so the figures are not exact. The latest estimate is that overall net migration to the UK was 270,000 over the last 12 months.

Within that, there has been a considerable drop in net migration from the EU since the Brexit referendum, with more European migrants leaving and fewer arriving. That has been offset by a rise in non-EU migration, meaning that overall the numbers are fairly steady over the past couple of years.

EU citizens who plan to stay are increasingly applying for British citizenship, rightly perceived as offering the most security in terms of the right to live in the UK. There were over 11,000 UK citizenship applications from EU nationals in each of the first two quarters of 2018, the highest on record.

Under EU law, having a right to reside or the right to permanent residence is not dependent on making an application: the right exists independent of any documentary proof. Brexit has caused many more people to apply for documents for peace of mind, although that trend is now returning to normal as people await the new Settlement Scheme that promises a much easier way of proving immigration status.


The number of people seeking asylum in the UK is at a historically low level. Around 34,000 people applied for asylum in the UK in 2017, including dependent family members. That’s a 15% drop on the previous year and “reflects a return to levels seen before the European migration crisis in 2015”, as the Home Office puts it.

It represents an even steeper decline from the turn of the century, when applications were running at around 100,000 per year.

The Home Office, which makes the initial decision on whether a person qualifies for asylum, has an internal target of deciding “straightforward” cases within six months. Since the beginning of 2015, the number of cases waiting longer than six months has more than tripled, from 4,300 in January-March 2015 to 14,500 in the last quarter.

More Syrians get asylum in the UK than any other nationality. The table below shows the top ten nationalities granted asylum in the UK in the most recent quarter, either following a positive Home Office decision on their application or after being resettled from a conflict zone.

Nationality Asylum grants + resettlements
Syria 1,357
Libya 363
Iran 265
Iraq 244
Eritrea 194
Sudan 157
Afghanistan 150
Pakistan 127
Stateless 108
Somalia 103
Source: Home Office, immigration statistics April-June 2018, tables as 02 q & as 19 q

Appeals, decided by judges at the immigration tribunal, play a big role in the the asylum process. Between 35% and 40% of appeals are successful. Last year, 5,000 people successfully appealed against a Home Office decision to refuse them asylum. 

The proportion of asylum applications that are ultimately successful is rising, from consistently under one third a decade ago to over 40% in recent years.

Detention and returns

The number of people held in immigration detention has been falling recently. The chart below shows that at the end of the most recent quarter, there were 2,200 migrants in detention centres, the lowest figure recorded since 2010.


It remains to be seen whether this trend continues: the number of people detained annually is fairly steady over time. Last year 27,300 migrants were detained. A rising proportion of those are from the European Union: around a quarter last year. Although detention is supposed to be used where removal from the UK is imminent, fewer than half of migrants leaving detention are being removed. The majority are released on bail.

Migrants with no permission to be in the UK, or who have been deported for committing a crime, will be removed from the country by the Home Office. These removals, or “returns”, can be either voluntary or enforced. Either way, returns have seen a massive drop recently. The total number of migrants returned was just 5,300 in the second quarter of 2018, the lowest by far since a new way of counting returns was introduced at the beginning of 2014.


Coming soon


The number of appeals decided by judges at the First-tier Tribunal (Immigration and Asylum Chamber) has fallen significantly over the years, as the Home Office has stripped away rights of appeal against its decisions. The number of appeals received by the tribunal is now less than a quarter of the volume a decade ago.

Despite the reduction in the number of appeals, the average waiting time for an appeal to be listed for hearing has until recently been rising. As of the second quarter of 2018, the average case takes 42 weeks to come before a judge.


When appeals are finally heard, the Home Office loses around half of them. The success rate for migrants in their First-tier Tribunal appeals was 52% for cases heard between April and June 2018 — an all-time high.

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