UK government continues to spend more than a quarter of the UK aid budget in the UK on asylum seeker costs

Today, Wednesday 10 April, the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) published its provisional statistics on how UK aid was spent in 2023.   

This annual publication provides an overview of the provisional UK aid spend in calendar year 2023 and has revealed that the UK is spending more than a quarter of UK aid on costs associated with housing asylum seekers in the UK. 

This spending by the Home Office and other departments to cover administrative and accommodation costs for housing asylum seekers in the UK continues to hinder the ability of FCDO to scale up its spending on sustainable development.   

The UK spent £4.3 billion on costs associated with asylum seekers in the UK in 2023, compared with £3.7 billion in 2022. 

The UK spent nearly 5 times as much on asylum seeker costs in the UK as spent on bilateral support for humanitarian needs in 2023. The UK spent £888million of bilateral UK aid on humanitarian assistance in 2023, a decrease of £221 million (19.9 %) from £1,109 million in 2022.    

Today’s statistics also reveal that: 

  • 27.9% of the UK aid budget was spent on refugee costs in the UK in 2023 (£4.3bn) compared to 28.9 % in 2022 (£3.7bn). 
  • Spending on asylum seekers and refugees in the UK has increased by 16.4% since 2022. 
  • A total of £15.374 billion was spent in 2023 making this 0.58% of GNI.  
  • The UK spent £4.3billion of the UK aid budget on refugee costs in the UK in 2023 compared to £4.1 billion UK aid spent by the FCDO bilaterally. 
  • The Home Office spent £2,955million in 2023 (19.2% of the UK aid budget), while in 2022 this was at £2,397million (18.7%).  
  • The FCDO accounted for 61.6% of the UK aid budget in 2023 (£9,471million) compared to 59.7% in 2022 and 71.6% in 2021. While this is an increase on 2022, it remains below 2021 and years preceding.
  • In 2023 the FCDO spent £1,054million of its region-specific bilateral UK aid in Africa (52.4%). While this has been an increase in share from 42.9% in 2022, in total numbers this is a decrease from £1,063million in 2022. 
  • In Asia the FCDO spent £619million in 2023 (30.8%). This is a decrease in comparison to 2022 both in terms of total and percentage, £925million (37.4%). 
  • Spending in Europe saw a decline from 2022 to 2023 both in total numbers and percentage. In 2023 spending in Europe was £248million (12.3%), while in 2022 this was £335 million (13.5%) 

In reaction to today’s statistics, Gideon Rabinowitz, Director of Policy and Advocacy at Bond, the UK network for NGOs, said: 

With over a quarter of the UK aid budget being spent right here in the UK, the government seems to have lost its grip on UK aid spending which is weakening the UK’s ability to respond to urgent global crises and support long-term sustainable development needs in lower-income countries. 

INGOs are once again seeing vital funding for emergency support programmes in Somalia, Yemen and elsewhere being cut or held back, and we suspect this is due to escalating Home Office asylum costs taking an increasing chunk of the UK aid budget.  

The government must stop seeing the UK aid budget as the primary pot for this spending given that it is legally required to support poverty reduction in lower-income countries. 

While we welcome UK aid spending increasing from 0.50% to 0.58% of gross national income, we urge the government to commit to this as the new minimum spending floor as we begin to scale up to return to 0.7%.


Notes to editors

  • Other notable statistics include: 
  • In 2023 £9.857million was bilateral (64.1%) – of which £888million humanitarian (5.8%) – while multilateral was £5,517million (35.9%). In 2022 bilateral was at £9,640million (75.4%) – of which £1,109million humanitarian (8.7%) – while multilateral was only at £3,146million (24.6%). 
  • In 2023 £2,011million (48.5%) was country/region specific bilateral UK aid, and £2,136 (52.5%) unspecific. In 2022 it was £2,474million (53.7%) specific and £2,133million (46.3%) unspecific. 
  • The Statistics on International Development: provisional UK aid spend 2023 is available online
  • Bond is the UK network for organisations working in international development. Bond unites and supports a diverse network of over 350 civil society organisations from across the UK, and allies to help eradicate global poverty, inequality and injustice.  
  • For further information or interviews please contact Jess Salter at [email protected] or call 07493200979.