Want to learn more about the issues? Meet some of the asylum seekers we’ve supported and get the facts about asylum seekers and refugees.

Crossing borders

Within the EU, complete freedom of movement is permitted for all law-abiding citizens. But outside of that, who is legally allowed to cross the borders from one country to another, and who is not?

People leave their home countries (‘migrate’) for many different reasons – to join family, to earn more or to enjoy a better standard of life. And throughout history too, people have been forced to flee their homes to escape conflict and persecution.

Since 1951, 144 countries worldwide have signed up to an internationally binding UN agreement to protect refugees in search of safety. Asylum seekers, then, are a particular and distinct category of migrants who face serious threats to life and freedom and have come to another country to claim their legal right to protection.

The UK has long and honourable tradition of welcoming people from other countries in need of sanctuary. We became home for 10,000 Jewish children who escaped Nazi persecution in the 1930s Kindertransport scheme and offered sanctuary to 27,000 Asians fleeing Idi Amin’s Uganda in 1972.

But globalisation is creating new and different pressures. In today’s UK, immigration and asylum have become hot topics. People worry about pressure on tax-funded services and see asylum seekers as part of the problem, forgetting our responsibilities under international law. The fact is, asylum seekers formed just 5% of all UK immigrants in 2015 (31,432 out of a total of 636,000).

One of SWVG’s roles is helping people get the facts and understand asylum issues better. This section offers a basic toolkit, including some plain English briefings and online resources.

 Pages in this section:

About asylum

Asylum facts

Asylum resources

Asylum stories

What’s an asylum seeker?