Differential treatment of specific nationalities in the procedure

United Kingdom


Refugee Council

From time to time the Home Office announces that removals of refused asylum seekers to particular countries are suspended. This is rare and there are no such concessions currently in force. The only one in the last ten years was in relation to Zimbabwe, but this is no longer in force. When there is such a concession in force, refused asylum seekers from that country become eligible to apply for a specific form of support, known as “s.4 support” and which covers accommodation and non-cash support (see section on Reception Conditions).1

The response to a political / humanitarian crisis can also be through immigration routes. Currently there is an immigration concession for Syrians who have immigration leave to be in the UK.2 This allows them to extend their leave for a further temporary period in specified ways, but does not in itself permit them to claim asylum. The policy is to manage the situation through temporary immigration measures rather than through inviting asylum claims.

The Upper Tribunal (IAC) has the power to make findings of fact which constitute binding ‘country guidance' for other cases. Depending on whether these issues are brought before the tribunal in a particular case, there may from time to time be binding country guidance about the impact of a crisis. Currently there is a country guidance case which says that, due to the high levels of repression in Syria, any forced returnee from the UK including refused asylum seekers would face a real risk of arrest and detention and of serious mistreatment during that detention.3 This does not result in a proactive grant of status from the asylum authorities but can be relied on by asylum seekers and refused asylum seekers in making representations to the Home Office.

From time to time the Home Office may accept that as a matter of fact there is no safe route of return for certain refused asylum seekers. This may be as a result of country guidance from the Tribunal or as a result of the Home Office's own factual findings. This qualifies the asylum seekers for a specific form of support (s.4 support see section on Reception Conditions) but does not in itself entail a grant of status. 

The Home Office uses charter flights to effect the return of large numbers of refused asylum seekers to one country. Sometimes charter flights are stopped by the courts when a group of those who were due to be removed are shown to be potentially at risk. In February 2013 for example the High Court held that Tamil refused asylum seekers would be at risk of persecution or serious harm, and the planned charter flight was stopped. The impact of decisions which stop flights depends upon the terms of the decision. In this case, the terms of the decision mean that, until any further order in the case, any Tamil refused asylum seeker may be able to successfully argue that they would be at risk, and prevent their own removal. However, the injunction which was issued in the case above applied only to the passengers on that particular flight.4 Concerns were voiced by NGOs in the UK about the possibility of further removals of Tamils to Sri Lanka, in the light of evidence from UNHCR and the European Court of Human Rights judgment in R.J. v France.5

When considering the treatment of particular caseloads at first instance, it is worth noting that the countries with some of the highest success rates at appeal during 2016 were:

Appeal success rates for key nationalities: 2016

Country of origin

Successful appeals

Success rate













Sri Lanka






Source: Home Office, Immigration Statistics Q4 2016.

With regards to the processing of asylum applications from persons fleeing Syria, the Home Office is not postponing or freezing decisions. While there is no consistent practice, it appears that some applications are being granted very quickly. In 2016, there were 1,579 grants of refugee status to Syrians, and the overall rate of rejection was 14%. Those rejected would normally have a right of appeal, (the exception being the 3 Syrians in 2016 whose applications were treated as clearly unfounded); however, after having exhausted all available remedies, they will not be granted any special form of humanitarian status.

On 29 January 2014, the Home Secretary announced that the UK Government would establish a programme to offer resettlement in the UK to some of the most vulnerable Syrian refugees: the “vulnerable person relocation (VPR) scheme.” The Home Secretary said that it would prioritise cases involving victims of sexual violence, the elderly, victims of torture, and the disabled. Those resettled are granted five years Humanitarian Protection and have access to public funds and the labour market. There was said to be no quota.6 Press reports suggested that the scheme would cater for around 500 refugees.7 Up to the end of 2016 5,454 people had been resettled on the VPR scheme.8 In response to campaigns and  public pressure following the drowning of Aylan Kurdi and the mass movement of refugees from the Middle East to Europe, on 7 September 2015 the UK government announced a relaxation of the criteria for the VPR and an increased target of 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years.9

The government launched a Community Sponsorship scheme as part of the SVPR programme. There are strict criteria for becoming a sponsor, including the type of organisation that can apply and the need to be approved by the local authority before applying to the Home Office. Guidance was issued at the same time as the scheme was launched.10

The European Commission proposed for a non-binding recommendation for an EU-wide resettlement scheme offering 20,000 places for people with a clear protection need. This was to be allocated among 28 Member States on the basis of a distribution key over two years. The UK’s commitment was to take 2,200.11 The UK did not opt into the EU agreement to receive first 40,000 then 120,000 refugees. Instead the UK government increased its commitment to the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Programme to 20,000 over five years.12

The government has also committed to resettling an additional 3,000 individuals under a ‘children at risk’ programme. In partnership with UNHCR, the UK will bring children from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region; a minority of whom are expected to be unaccompanied. The government announced the programme in response to calls to bring children from Europe.

  • 1. UK Visas and Immigration, Asylum support, section 4 policy and support, available at: http://bit.ly/1Ht8SBE.
  • 2. Home Office, Concession to the Immigration Rules for Syrian nationals, 29 February 2016, available at: http://bit.ly/2jGM4Nn.
  • 3. KB (Syria) v SSHD [2012] UKUT 00426.
  • 4. Channel 4 News, ‘Sri Lanka: high court blocks Tamil deportations’, 27 February 2013, available at: http://bit.ly/1Gw3DCM.
  • 5. ECtHR, R.J. v France, Application No. 10466/11, Judgment of 19 September 2013.
  • 6. United Kingdom, House of Commons Standard Note (2014) In Brief: Syrian refugees and the UK, Standard Note: SNIA/6805, 30 July 2014, Ben Smith and Melanie Gower, International Affairs and Defence Section and Home Affairs Section, available at: http://bit.ly/1ChawUp.
  • 7. United Kingdom, Guardian News (2014) UK agrees to take up to 500 of the most traumatised Syrian refugees, 28 January 2014, available at: http://bit.ly/1dN2XXL.
  • 8. Home Office, Immigration statistics: 4th quarter 2016.
  • 9. The Guardian, ‘UK to take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees over five years, David Cameron confirms’, 7 September 2015, available at: http://bit.ly/1VJezE1.
  • 10. More information available at: http://bit.ly/29VQxZI.
  • 11. Council of the European Union, Conclusions of the representatives of the governments of the Member States meeting within the Council on resettling through multilateral and national schemes 20 000 persons in clear need of international protection, 11130/15 ASIM 62 RELEX 633, 22 July 2015. See AIDA Annual Report 2014/15.
  • 12. The Guardian, ‘EU governments push through divisive deal to share 120,000 refugees’, 22 September 2015, available at: http://bit.ly/1KyGijN.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti