Improving the lives of refugees

We speak up for refugees

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

Why we support refugees

Right now, around 1% of the world’s population have been forced to flee their homes.

No one country alone can respond to this humanitarian need. But the UK can and should be a global voice for protecting people’s rights to fair treatment when they flee - wherever they are in the world.

We can set an example at home through the support offered to the small number of people who do seek safety here from war, violence, and persecution.

Every year the British Red Cross helps over 30,000 people in the UK, at all stages of the asylum process.

This includes providing food and clothing to 16,000 refugees, and helping to reunite almost 1,000 people with family in the UK.

What's wrong with the asylum system?

The asylum system needs reform. There are limited safe ways for people to seek asylum in the UK and more people are waiting over a year for an initial decision on their claim.

Too many people are being housed in unsafe accommodation without the support they need.

The British Red Cross is calling for a fairer, more effective and compassionate asylum system:

  1. Safe Routes: Expanding safe ways for people to seek protection in the UK so they aren't forced to take dangeous journeys. This includes allowing people to reunite with family through family reunion pathways and by piloting humanitarian visas.
  2. Fair decisions: Improving asylum decision-making so that decisions are made quickly and are right the first time 
  3. Safe homes and the right support: Providing the right support people need while waiting for an asylum decision, and after a decision, to recover and rebuild their lives. 

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

Who's affected?

There are an estimated 328,989 refugees living in the UK. The conflict in Ukraine has driven a large increase from the previous year.

That’s just 0.3 per cent of the 108.4 million people throughout the world who have been forced to flee their homes. The UK received 74,751 asylum applications in 2022.

Get more information about refugees.

What needs to change?

The government has passed the Illegal Migration Act into law. This will prevent most people fleeing war and persecution from claiming asylum in the UK, including when they are from places where we know people are likely to have reasons to flee, such as Afghanistan, Syria and Sudan. 

The Act punishes people simply for the way they arrived, without considering their need for protection. Instead they will be left in limbo: detained, potentially removed, and unable to access vital support. They will be unable to re-build and start to contribute to UK society. 

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:

  • Uphold access to the asylum system by considering all claims, no matter how someone arrives in the UK. 
  • Expand existing safe routes, such as family reunion, and pilot new ones, such as humanitarian visas.
  • Roll out a more efficient process for making asylum decisions so that decisions are made swiftly and are right the first time.
  • Improve support in the UK for refugees and people seeking asylum so they can engage effectively with the process, and for those who stay, integrate and contribute to society. 

Contact our policy and advocacy team

More about how we stand with refugees