Improving the lives of refugees

We speak up for refugees

People who seek protection in the UK should be treated fairly and humanely.

Red Cross volunteer providing refugee support.

What’s wrong? 

Thousands of people experience serious problems with the UK asylum system. This leaves them distressed and in poverty, and many use British Red Cross services for support.

In addition, too many families who have been torn apart struggle to reunite due to the complex process and restrictions.

The British Red Cross has identified three main problems faced by people who come to the UK for safety and protection:

  1. Family reunion – refugees have a legal right, under UK and international law, to bring their families to this country.
  2. Poverty and poor health – once here, refugees who escaped a crisis now face the risk of extreme poverty.
  3. The move-on period – the Home Office gives new refugees just 28 days before withdrawing their asylum support.

Find out more in our new policy briefing on refugees and people seeking asylum.

Who’s affected?

There are an estimated 118,995 refugees living in the UK.

That’s just 0.18 per cent of the 65.1 million people throughout the world who have been forced to flee their homes. The UK received 30,747 asylum applications in 2016. [Source:]

Get more information about refugees.

What needs to change?

Across the UK, we want to see a fair, effective and efficient asylum system that treats people with respect and dignity.

Our calls to decision makers:


  • We want the asylum system to uphold the UK's responsibilities to provide safety for refugees.
  • We believe that no one seeking asylum in the UK should be without a home and financial support.
  • We think that a better system would include the early and sustained delivery of quality legal advice.
  • We believe that more refugee families torn apart by war and violence should be able to reunite in this country.


  • Allow no one who seeks asylum or refuge in Scotland to fall into poverty and become destitute.
  • Give people who arrive here the right to work so they can build better lives for themselves.
  • Allow close family members who are still overseas to join refugees who are already here.


  • We want organisations that raise awareness of and alleviate poverty among asylum seekers in Wales to be supported.

Northern Ireland

  • Give asylum seekers access to free primary care, as well as the opportunity to learn English on arrival.
  • Publish data on asylum seekers in Northern Ireland to help policy makers plan services.

Support our calls

England - get in touch with Jon Featonby:

Scotland - get in touch with Kenneth Watt:

Wales - get in touch with Alicia Evans:

Northern Ireland - get in touch with Mary Friel: