The number of people offered protection in the UK, in the form of asylum, resettlement and other types of leave, fell by more than a half in the year to March 2021, figures show.
A total of 8,640 people were granted protection, down 58% from 20,331 in the previous year.
It is the lowest number for any 12-month period since the year to September 2014.
The drop reflects the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, which led to fewer decisions made on asylum applications as well as pause in resettlement, according to the Home Office, which published the figures.
A sharp fall in air passengers is also likely to have reduced the number of people travelling to the UK for asylum using this route, which could have affected the number of decisions made on such cases.
All resettlement activity in the UK was paused between March and November 2020, leading to a drop of 93% in the number of resettlement grants from 4,968 in 2019/20 to just 353 in 2020/21.
Grants following an asylum application had increased in every 12-month period from the year to June 2018 (8,616) to the year to March 2020 (15,363).
But since then the number has dropped steadily, with 8,287 applications granted in the year to March 2021: a year-on-year fall of 46%.
There were 26,903 asylum applications (relating to 32,411 people) in the UK in 2020/21, down nearly a quarter (24%) on the previous year.
This included 2,044 applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children, down 42% year-on-year.
Responding to the figures, Mike Adamson, chief executive at British Red Cross, said: “Despite fewer asylum applications being made over the last year, over 50,000 women, men and children have now been waiting for longer than six months for a decision, an increase of 71% over the last year.
“These delays leave people in unsafe accommodation, with little or no financial support and unable to move on with their lives for months and even years – adding to the traumas they’ve already been through and to the costs of the asylum system.
“Unfortunately, dealing with these delays is largely absent from the Government’s plan for immigration. It’s a missed opportunity for much needed progress.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Over the past year, we’ve seen a global health emergency with countries including the UK going into lockdown and introducing travel restrictions. For this reason, resettlement activity was paused between April 2020 and November 2020.
“We have an extremely proud track record – since 2015, we have resettled almost 25,000 men, women and children seeking refuge from cruel circumstances across the world – more than any other European country.
“As part of our new plan for immigration, we are strengthening our support for those entering through safe and legal routes, such as granting automatic indefinite leave to remain on arrival and helping refugees to integrate and thrive in the UK.”