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 For now, please be aware that some of the information in the Toolkit may be out-of-date for people who arrived in the UK after that date.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: 16 November 2023

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.

However, at the time of writing, though people who have claimed asylum in the UK have been issued notices of inadmissibility, there is currently no country that they can be sent to. This means that the Inadmissibility Rules policy has not been carried out fully. Read this page to better understand what really happens if someone’s claim is flagged as potentially inadmissible. 

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.

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. The policy will not be going ahead, and no one subjected to the Inadmissibility Rules will be sent to Rwanda.

Read about the legal cases against and final failure of the Rwanda policy in our Legal Update blog.

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 definitely not be considered under the Inadmissibility Rules. The guidance also makes it clear that people with children (e.g., parents with children) should not have the policy applied to them either 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. 

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.

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.

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

However, the UK does not currently have any such agreements with any countries.

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. 

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.