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What support do asylum seekers get when they come to the UK?

A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover on 7 February. (Getty)
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought into Dover on 7 February. (Getty)

A record number of people are waiting for a decision on their UK asylum application, new data has revealed.

A total of 160,919 asylum seekers were waiting for an initial decision on their claim at the end of December, up 60% from 100,564 for the same period last year.

Rishi Sunak has said dealing with the backlog and clamping down on illegal Channel crossings are a priority for his time in office.

He has come under fire for the government's handling of the issue, including over the costs involved in housing asylum seekers in hotels across the country.

Read more: Thousands of asylum cases to be fast-tracked in bid to cut soaring backlog

Rishi Sunak has pledged to deal with the backlog. (PA)
Rishi Sunak has pledged to deal with the backlog. (PA)

Some 90% of people arriving in the UK in 2022 after crossing the Channel claimed asylum or were recorded as a dependant on an asylum application.

What support do asylum seekers in the UK receive?

People who have applied for asylum in the UK will be provided with support from the government.

The two biggest benefits are £45 per person in the household each week and a place to live.

Pregnant women or people with a child under three will be given between £3 to £5 per week extra.

Pregnant women can also apply for a one-off £300 maternity payment.

Asylum seekers are also given full access to NHS services, including prescriptions and dental care.

They can also get free eye tests and help to buy glasses.

Read more: 12,000 asylum seekers to have cases fast-tracked in bid to clear backlog

The government has been struggling to find places to home migrants while they wait for their applications. Those seen here are being housed at Napier Barracks in Folkestone. (PA)
The government has been struggling to find places to home migrants while they wait for their applications. Those seen here are being housed at Napier Barracks in Folkestone. (PA)

Children will also be given a place at school, which they must attend, and may qualify for free school meals.

If the asylum seeker is placed in accommodation that offers a meal, such as a hotel, then their allowance is cut from £45 a week to £8.24.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work in the UK and cannot apply for most normal benefits like Universal Credit.

If the decision on whether to grant asylum is taking an extended amount of time the asylum seeker can apply for special permission to work.

Once asylum has been granted then they will be granted permission to work in the UK.

How big is the backlog?

The backlog has been rising sharply in recent years and is now over 160,000 - the highest it has ever been since current records began in 2010.

The number of people waiting more than six months for a decision stood at 109,641 at the end of 2022, up 77% year-on-year from 61,864.

Of the 160,000 people currently seeking asylum, 89,398 of those applications were made in 2022 - the highest since 2003.

The number of illegal channel crossings has soared in recent years. (PA)
The number of illegal channel crossings has soared in recent years. (PA)

This has led to more than 100,000 people waiting more than six months for an initial decision.

The applications made in 2022 were multiethnic, with people from many different nations trying to be granted asylum in the UK.

Albania was the most common nationality applying for asylum in the UK in 2022, with just over 14,000.

Afghans came second with 10,000 asylum applications in 2022 out of the nearly 90,000 total.

How does the UK compare to other European countries?

Although there has been a lot of media coverage about the number of asylum seekers trying to settle in the UK, many other European nations are seeing an even larger surge in applications.

For years Germany has seen the highest number of asylum seekers out of all the major countries in Europe.

In the year ending in September 2022, the UK had received around 80,000 applications compared to Germany's nearly 300,000.

France also took more with 175,000 applications and Spain had around 125,000.

Every year since 2018 Germany, France and Spain have all taken more asylum seekers than the UK.

Colin Yeo, an author and statistician who specialise in the UK's immigration system said: "The UK is not a 'magnet' for refugees, the vast majority claim asylum elsewhere."