A new law called The Illegal Migration Act 2023 has recently come into force. The Act has brought about significant changes to the UK asylum and immigration system for people who arrive in the UK on or after 20 July 2023. We are in the process of updating the Toolkit to reflect these developments. For now, please be aware that some of the information in the Toolkit may be out-of-date for people who arrived in the UK after that date. To stay up to date with any changes to the Toolkit, please sign up to our newsletter here.

Last Updated: 3 May 2024

On this page, you will find the following information: 

In January 2021, the UK government introduced new rules through which they can decide that an asylum claim is “inadmissible”. This means that, for reasons explained on this page, the UK will try not to consider that person’s asylum claim in the UK. These rules replace the Dublin Regulations, which no longer operate in the UK after Brexit.

In your asylum screening (first) interview, you will be asked about your journey to the UK. One of the reasons why you are asked questions about this is to determine whether the UK is responsible for considering your asylum claim. There will be questions about whether you have claimed asylum or been granted Refugee Status in any other country; and if you passed through other countries before reaching the UK, why you did not apply for asylum there. Read more about this in the sections below.

If the Home Office thinks that you travelled through a “safe country” on your way to the UK, they can decide to investigate whether your claim should be treated as inadmissible. While your claim is being considered under these rules, your asylum claim will not move forward in the UK.

What are the Inadmissibility Rules?

The inadmissibility rules were first introduced by the Home Office in January 2021 as a result of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). The Home Office is the UK government department that is responsible for immigration matters. You can read the most recent Home Office guidance on inadmissibility here

Inadmissibility is defined as follows: 

‘In broad terms, asylum claims may be declared inadmissible and not substantively considered in the UK, if the claimant was previously present in or had another connection to a safe third country, where they claimed protection, or could reasonably be expected to have done so, provided there is a reasonable prospect of removing them in a reasonable time to a safe third country.’

What does this mean?

If it is found that someone claiming asylum in Britain passed through a country on the way to the UK where they could have, or they did apply for asylum, and they can be fairly easily removed to another country that the UK government has an agreement with, then their asylum claim will not be looked at in Britain and will instead be looked at in that country. That country is called a ‘safe third country’. A process will begin to try and remove them to another country, but not necessarily the country that they passed through.

When the UK was a member of the EU, it took part in an agreement called the Dublin III Regulation with other EU countries. Under this agreement the UK was able to, under certain circumstances, return migrants to an EU country that they had passed through before arriving in the UK. This agreement no longer applies to the UK because the UK left the EU after Brexit, and the inadmissibility rules are meant to replace it.

The link between the Inadmissibility rules and Rwanda

Because the UK no longer has agreements with EU states – the countries in Europe which migrants are more likely to have passed through on their way to the UK – the Home Office cannot return migrants to the safe third countries mentioned in the inadmissibility definition.

The initial Rwanda plan

As a result, on 14 April 2022 the UK attempted to enter into an agreement with the Rwandan government to make arrangements to remove people seeking asylum who fulfilled the ‘inadmissibility’ definition (this means they had been present in or had a connection to a safe third country) to Rwanda as another ‘safe third country’ to have their asylum claim processed there instead. 

The intention was that if a person’s asylum claim was accepted in Rwanda, they would be offered what the agreement between the two governments called ‘pathways to legal residence’ in Rwanda. This agreement between the UK and Rwandan governments is called the Migration and Economic Development Partnership (MEDP). 

Rwanda has a poor human rights record and many senior officials, including the British High Commissioner to Rwanda, had warned the Home Office not to sign a deal with the country because of this. On 15 November 2023, after over a year of litigation in the courts, the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom ruled that the Rwanda policy was unlawful, and could not be enforced by the UK government. You can read about the legal cases against and failure of the initial Rwanda policy in our Legal Update blog.

The Safety of Rwanda Act and Treaty

In response to the Supreme Court judgment of November 2023, the government did not drop the Rwanda plan. Instead, it pursued it even more aggressively, by writing up a new Bill which would be passed as law to become the Safety of Rwanda Act in April 2024. The UK government also signed a Treaty (a formal agreement under international law) with the government of Rwanda to bolster (this means to strengthen) the law. 

The passing of the Rwanda Act and Treaty is very controversial (because government went against the decision of the Supreme Court, and the vote of the House of Lords in Parliament). The impact of the passing of the Act and Treaty is rapidly changing, so to keep up to date, please read our Legal Update blog which we update as we learn more about the situation. 

What we do know is that the Inadmissibility Rules now work slightly differently for people who are most recently at risk of removal to Rwanda

Those who fall under the inadmissibility rules and fulfil the below criteria are at risk of receiving Rwanda removal directions:

  • Claimed asylum in the UK on or after 1 January 2022
  • Are over the age of 18 
  • Had a ‘dangerous’ or ‘irregular’ journey to the UK
  • Do not have a family with children under the age of 18 with them 

At present, we are also hearing that people who are at risk of detention under Rwanda powers, or who have been detained, have 1 or more of the following documents:

  • A Notice of Intent letter (see more below)
  • A decision of inadmissibility letter (see more below)
  • A removal decision
  • Removal directions

If you are at risk of detention under Rwanda powers, it is important to write down the following telephone numbers on a piece of paper and keep it with you (not on your phone, as your phone will be taken away from you initially if you are detained). 

These organisations support people who are in detention generally. If you are at risk of removal to Rwanda, tell them and they will refer you to legal representatives who are taking on these cases. 

Who do the Inadmissibility Rules apply to?

The Home Office guidance on the Inadmissibility Rules states that, of the people who are found to have a ‘connection’ to a safe third country, asylum claims made by the following groups are excluded from being deemed inadmissible:

“Some cases are not suitable for third country inadmissibility action and must be immediately referred for alternative action. Other examples may apply, but the main cases are mentioned here:

  • Unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) as a matter of policy are presently treated as not suitable for third country inadmissibility action – such cases must therefore be allocated for substantive consideration (this includes
  • individuals whose age is doubted but who are being treated as children under the Assessing age instruction)
  • European Union nationals are liable to be treated as inadmissible under different legal provisions, and so must not be progressed in third country processes – such cases must be referred back to the relevant screening unit or a caseworker”

This means that unaccompanied children should not be considered under the Inadmissibility Rules. The guidance also makes it clear that people with children (e.g., parents with children under the age of 18) should not have the policy applied to them until statutory guidance on the best interests of the child is considered. This means that, because it is typically beneficial to children not to be separated from their parents, it is unlikely that parents with children would be considered inadmissible under the rules. Under the Inadmissibility Guidance which relates to Rwanda, families with children under the age of 18 will not be considered for removal to Rwanda, but they may be considered for removal to another safe third country.

The Free Movement article on inadmissibility warns us to remember the following: 

“There is always a risk that asylum seeking children are treated as adults and there are also instances where notices have been issued to those with children. Representatives should take care to provide representations to the Home Office regarding their statutory duty in this respect.” 

EU nationals could be inadmissible, but if they are, they would be dealt with under a different set of rules, not the inadmissibility rules. For more information on the immigration status of EEA (and EU) nationals in the UK after Brexit, read our EEA Nationals page.

Unaccompanied children who have turned 18

The guidance above states that unaccompanied children under the age of 18 will not be considered under the inadmissibility rules, and families with children under the age of 18 will not be considered for removal to Rwanda. However, we receive questions about young people who entered the UK and claimed asylum as children, but have since turned 18 and have not yet received an initial asylum decision. 

It would be unlikely that young people in this category would be affected by Rwanda removals, but it does not mean that this is for certain (particularly if an inaccurate age assessment has been carried out). 

If we learn more about this category of young people, we will update this page. 

When in the asylum process do the Inadmissibility Rules apply?

In May 2024, amidst reports of people being detained under Rwanda powers even though they had received questionnaires or had attended a substantive interview, page 19 of this Inadmissibility guidance states: 

Provided a substantive asylum decision has not been made, caseworkers may refer cases to be considered for inadmissibility action at any time, including where the claimant has been substantively interviewed (indeed, it may only be disclosures at interview which reveal the claimant’s status or presence in a third country). 

In general, cases are most likely to be suitable for inadmissibility action close to the time of arrival in the UK, but older cases may be suitable, depending on the facts. 

So, it seems that people are potentially vulnerable to receiving Notices of Intent of inadmissibility throughout the asylum process, until they have received an initial Home Office decision (of refusal or a grant of refugee status). Although it is less likely the further along someone is in the asylum process, it is still possible to receive a Notice of Intent after submitting a completed questionnaire or attending a substantive (big) interview. 

Read the section below to learn more about disputing a notice of intent. 

What happens if your claim is deemed inadmissible?

When you claim asylum, you are invited by the Home Office to have a first interview. This is called a screening interview. At this interview, a Home Office caseworker will ask you questions about insensitive inadmissibility ‘criteria’ that, to the Home Office, show a ‘specified connection’ to a third country. 

The Home Office has provided a list of examples of specified connections, and its caseworkers are given a lot of discretion (this means freedom to make a decision) to decide whether or not someone has a connection with a safe third country. The list is as follows: 

  1. You have been recognised as a refugee in a safe third country and remain able to access protection there. 
  2. You’ve been granted some other form of protection in a safe third country and would not be sent from there to another country where you would face danger, and remain able to access that protection in the third country. 
  3. You made a claim (for asylum or protection) in a safe third country and that claim has not yet been determined, or has been refused. 
  4. You were previously in a safe third country and had the option to make a claim for protection there, it would have been reasonable to expect you to make a claim there, but you did not. 
  5. In your particular circumstances, it would have been reasonable to expect you to make a claim for protection in a safe third country instead of the UK. 

If the answer to any of these is “yes”, then the Home Office caseworker must hand the case over to a department of the Home Office called the Third Country Unit (TCU). 

Notice of intent

If the TCU finds that it needs to consider whether or not your claim should be deemed ‘inadmissible’, you will receive a Notice of Intent letter. Importantly, this is not the same as receiving a decision of inadmissibility. It is simply a notification to let you know that TCU is considering whether or not your claim is inadmissible. At this stage, no formal decision on inadmissibility has been made yet. To see an example of a Notice of Intent letter, have a read of page 30 of the Home Office guidance on inadmissibility here

While your claim is being considered under these rules, your asylum claim will not move forward in the UK. 

Though you may be at risk of the Home Office trying to detain you if the TCU says that they are considering whether your asylum claim is inadmissible, you should not be removed from the country. Removal from the UK only becomes a possibility if you receive a decision of inadmissibility. 
To learn more, read our Toolkit pages on Immigration Detention and Removal.

If you have received a notice of intent, and have been detained under Rwanda powers, please read our blog on the Safety of Rwanda Act for further information here.

Disputing a Notice of Intent

If you receive a notice of intent of inadmissibility, it is possible to dispute it. 

If you received the notice of intent and you are not detained, you will automatically have 7 days to dispute it. If you were in detention when you received a notice of intent, you will have 14 days to dispute it. You should send your dispute by letter or email to the email/address provided by the Home Office in the letter containing the notice of intent. 

When disputing to a notice of intent, you are telling the Home Office why you specifically would be at risk if removed to another safe third country from the UK. If you are detained under Rwanda powers, you need to explain why you specifically would be vulnerable to a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm if removed to Rwandayou are not telling the Home Office why Rwanda generally is an unsafe country. 

In disputing a notice of intent, you (and your lawyer if you have one) should consider: 

  • Your individual circumstances
  • You journey to the UK
  • Potential medical evidence 
  • If you need an extension, ask for one as soon as possible 
  • Contact Duncan Lewis Solicitors or  legal representatives should consider the claimant’s individual characteristics and vulnerabilities and take detailed instructions regarding their journey to the UK. They should also consider objective evidence on the countries the Home Office has indicated they consider are safe to return to. There may be a need for medical evidence. Where more time is needed to gather evidence, timely requests for an extension of time should be made.

See this article from Free Movement for further information on inadmissibility notices of intent and Rwanda specifically. 

If you have received a notice of intent and are at risk of removal to Rwanda, you should contact Duncan Lewis Solicitors or Wilsons LLP for representation. Further details are in this blog.

Decision of Inadmissibility

The TCU can only make a formal decision of inadmissibility (because of your ‘specified connection’ to a safe third country) if a third country agrees to remove you. A decision of inadmissibility means that you will no longer be considered to have an asylum claim ongoing in the UK. You will be notified of this decision in a letter

The reality of a decision of inadmissibility

The Free Movement article on inadmissibility summarises the reality of inadmissibility clearly: 

If a third country never agrees to accept transfer of the asylum seeker, which has proven to be the case for almost all cases considered under the inadmissibility process since it was launched, then a formal decision that the claim is inadmissible will never be made.

Eventually, the person’s asylum claim will instead be considered in the United Kingdom. But this may be months or even years after the claim was first made as no time limit is imposed on the Home Office for making a final inadmissibility decision.

So, the reality is that to date, most people who receive Notices of Intent for inadmissibility eventually end up back in the UK asylum system to have their claims processed. 

This is proven by the statistics (this means numbers) published in a report by a House of Commons Library Briefing on inadmissibility. You can read the whole report by clicking here. It says: 

Someone’s asylum claim should not be declared inadmissible until another country has agreed for the person to be removed there.

As a result, fewer than 100 people have had their claim declared inadmissible since the current framework was introduced at the start of 2021. Between 1 January 2021 and 30 September 2022:

• 20,600 people were considered for inadmissibility

• 18,500 people were served with a notice of intent that their claim is potentially inadmissible

• 83 people had their asylum claim declared inadmissible

21 people have been removed from the UK (all to EU countries or Switzerland) 

This means that of the 18,500 people who received notices of intent between 1 January 2021 – 30 September 2022, only 21 were actually removed from the UK. 

This was further confirmed in November 2023 when the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office published the quarterly figures on immigration and asylum, and it was revealed that:

Of 69,645 people identified for consideration of inadmissibility, 31,910 were issued with a notice of intent. Of those 83 were deemed inadmissible and 23 were removed. Those removals were to Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. No removals have taken place since the period October to December 2022 when there was one such removal

Inadmissibility and asylum support

Importantly, if you receive a Notice of Intent and your asylum claim is paused, you will still receive section 95 or section 98 asylum support. It will not be stopped. 

However, if you receive a decision of inadmissibility, section 95 or section 98 support will be stopped. You would still be able to apply for support under section 4 if you meet the requirements.

To learn more about asylum support and how to apply for section 4 support, read our Toolkit page.

Humanitarian protection

If someone has made an asylum claim and it is declared inadmissible, and they brought a claim for Humanitarian Protection at the same time, the claim for Humanitarian Protection will also be deemed inadmissible. This rule can be found in section 327F of the Immigration Rules

Judicial review 

Because a decision of inadmissibility is not a decision on an asylum claim, it cannot be appealed in the courts. An alternative option for relief would be to bring an action for judicial review

A judicial review is not a challenge to a decision (that is an appeal). A judicial review is a challenge about how a decision was made. 

For example, the Home Office decides that someone’s asylum claim is inadmissible because they passed through another country on their way to the UK, and the UK wants to send them to a third country (and the third country agrees to the removal). That person could perhaps bring a judicial review to show that even though they passed through another country on their way to the UK, there will be a risk of specific danger posed to them in particular if they are sent to the third country chosen by the UK (e.g., human rights abuses in that country that target a group that the person is a member of). 

The Inadmissibility Rules and fresh claims

A fresh claim can only be brought after a final asylum appeal dismissal. A fresh claim is an opportunity to give new evidence to the Home Office and ask for a new decision on your right to stay in the UK based on this new evidence.

A decision of inadmissibility from the Home Office is not a decision on an asylum claim. A decision on an asylum claim either agrees that your claim for asylum is valid and grants you status, or refuses your asylum claim because the Home Office does not think you need this form of protection from the UK. A decision of inadmissibility means that the Home Office does not think you qualify to even claim asylum in the UK. 

So, further submissions cannot be made for a fresh claim if a decision (not just a notice) of inadmissibility is issued by the Home Office.