Refugee Status and Humanitarian Protection

Refugee Status and Humanitarian Protection are forms of international protection given to someone who is accepted as being at risk of harm in their home country. Both will be considered at the same time and if one is accepted as being applicable, should be granted according to your specific circumstances. You cannot be granted both refugee status and humanitarian protection at the same time.
It is important to understand some key terms before exploring the area of international protection:

  1. Asylum seeker: An asylum seeker in the UK is someone who has made an application for asylum in the UK and is awaiting a decision on their application.
  2. Refugee Convention: This is international legislation that will be considered by the Home Office when they are deciding whether an applicant is eligible for refugee status. Only someone who meets the requirements of the Refugee Convention will be granted refugee status in the UK.
  3. Refugee status: A refugee is someone whose asylum claim has been accepted and is recognised as meeting the Refugee Convention. An asylum seeker will become a refugee if the Home Office grant them refugee status.
  4. Humanitarian protection: This is a form of leave to remain in the circumstances where someone does not meet the requirements of the Refugee Convention but still needs protection because they face a risk of serious harm in their home country.

Changes to asylum and humanitarian protection

On 28 June 2022, big changes to asylum and humanitarian protection were introduced through the Nationality and Borders Act. Individuals claiming asylum after this date will have their claims considered under a different system than those who claimed before this date. 

Applications made before 28 June 2022 will be referred to as pre-Borders Act claims, whereas subsequent claims will be called post-Borders Act claims.

Eligibility for Asylum

To seek asylum in the UK and be granted refugee status, your asylum claim must fall within one or more risk categories (called Convention reasons) under the Refugee Convention. This means that someone must face a well-founded fear of treatment that amounts to persecution because of their:

  1. Race
  2. Religion
  3. Nationality
  4. Membership of a particular social group
  5. Political belief

Additionally, you must be unable to obtain protection from the authorities of their country of nationality or country they fear persecution from, and you must be unable to relocate internally, for example, to a different city, to get away from the risk of harm.

What is Humanitarian Protection in the UK 

In contrast, humanitarian protection is a type of leave to remain in the UK which is granted when the Home Office consider that you do not fall into the risk categories under the Refugee Convention and you are therefore not eligible for refugee status, but the Home Office deem that you would still face a real risk of suffering serious harm and you are unable or unwilling to return to their country of nationality because of that risk.

An example of a situation where humanitarian protection may be granted is where you are fleeing a war zone for reasons of fearing indiscriminate violence, and the Home Office agree that returning you to that country would lead to a risk of serious harm. In this situation, there is no need for you to fall into a specific Convention reason to make you eligible for protection.

Family Reunion 

Immediate family members of individuals granted refugee status or humanitarian protection in the UK may make applications to join their sponsor. Immediate family members must have formed part of the family unit prior to the sponsor fleeing the country and normally include partners, children under 18 years, and sometimes children over the age of 18. There are other provisions to enable other children related to a refugee to join a sponsor, subject to certain requirements. Family members who became part of the family unit post-flight (after the Sponsor left their home country to seek asylum in the UK), should apply under the family members routes under the Immigration Rules.

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  • What are the possible outcomes of an asylum claim?

    This answer to this is not straightforward because it depends on whether the claim was pre-Borders Act or post Post-Borders Act. It is important to note that currently, this two-tier system for granting refugee status has been paused. Seek advice if you are unsure about your grant of status.

  • What if my initial asylum claim is refused?

    If an asylum claim is refused, you should have the automatic right to appeal. This means that a case will go to a Tribunal where a judge will consider evidence from the applicant and from the Home Office and then decide whether the Home Office was right to refuse the claim.

  • What is a fresh asylum claim?

    If an asylum claim has been refused and you have no further rights of appeal, further submissions may be submitted if there has been a change in case law making it unsafe to return to your country of nationality or you obtained new evidence directly relating to your case, for example, court orders, arrest warrants. You must demonstrate how you obtained the new evidence information.

    This new evidence must not have been considered in any previous asylum applications and taken together with previous evidence submitted, must create a realistic prospect of success. If you had the opportunity to submit this in a previous asylum claim and did not do so without good reason, the Home Office may use this as a reason to refuse an application.

    If it is accepted, you will either be granted refugee status or humanitarian protection. If refused, it can be without a right of appeal if the further submissions are considered not to amount to a fresh claim, or it can be with a right of appeal if it is believed that the further submissions do amount to a fresh claim, but do not meet the threshold for international protection.

  • How is Human Rights considered in an asylum claim?

    In deciding an asylum claim, the Home Office will consider an applicant’s rights under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) including any medical (Article 3) or family (Article 8) factors that would lead to a breach of the ECHR if an individual were to be returned to their country of nationality.

  • What are Safe and Legal Routes?

    It is not possible to claim asylum from outside of the UK. However, the Home Office outlines that refugees should use safe and legal routes to resettle in the UK. There are limited nationality-specific resettlement programmes available for applicants of certain nationalities, including:

    – Routes for Afghan nationals and their family members, including for those previously employed with the UK government, vulnerable individuals, and those at risk.
    – Routes for Ukrainian nationals and their family members, including those who have a UK-based family member with qualifying immigration status and those who have a sponsor in the UK who will provide them with accommodation for a minimum of 6 months.
    – Hong Kong British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) Visa – this is not a specific protection status, rather it makes it easier for Hong Kong BN(O) individuals to migrate to the UK.

    Third-country resettlement programmes also exist for individuals who cannot return to their country of nationality and currently live in a third country. Individuals are usually selected through the UNHCR and a limited number of individuals per year travel to the UK under these routes.

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