Britain is undeniably becoming more authoritarian by the day. The government has stripped an unprecedented number of rights from its citizens in the last few years and continues to do so. For instance, the government is about to place significant restrictions on the right to protest.

My question is thus:

At what point does a state become so authoritarian that its citizens would stand a reasonable chance of claiming asylum elsewhere?

(Obviously we're nowhere near that point but it's an interesting hypothetical and also useful to have a vague idea of where the line lies)

  • 1
    If you're looking for practical advice on escaping the country, check out Expatriats. Jul 12, 2021 at 16:18
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    You might want to note that pretty much no country in the world would accept as legitimate an asylum claim from someone from the UK unless they were doing so for publicity purposes.
    – Richard
    Jul 12, 2021 at 19:18
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    You should be exercising your civic duty to change policy and lobby your local representatives, and then civil disobedience way before you consider fleeing the country. If everyone with means simply fled the country instead of fixed it, we'd only have authoritarian regimes left to flee to. Other countries citizens engage in such action at the risk of injury and indefinite imprisonment even when they have the option to flee, which is most assuredly not your situation.
    – Krupip
    Jul 12, 2021 at 19:25
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    @Richard And yet: independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/…
    – dbmag9
    Jul 12, 2021 at 20:15
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    Yup, that's why nobody in Hong Kong took up Britain's offer of citizenship, they were like "we'll stick with the declared communists only genociding the Uighurs"... not that horrible UK government that let Danny Boyle run the Olympics and then canceled Humans... Jul 12, 2021 at 21:27

3 Answers 3


Anyone can claim asylum

Whether that person qualifies as a refugee depends on the law in the country where they make the claim which usually involves an administrative decision making process. If a country is a signatory to the UN convention on refugees then local law will reflect that in some way. This outlines the process in .

Under the convention a refugee is a person who:

... owing to well‐founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality and is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country; or who, not having a nationality and being outside the country of his former habitual residence as a result of such events, is unable or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to return to it ...

Being a citizen or a resident of a state with an authoritarian government does not, of itself, make one a refugee.

The individual must have a “well‐founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.” Most citizens of most authoritarian countries are not persecuted or at risk of persecution.

They also must be outside their home country.

You can always emigrate

The UK has no general restrictions on people leaving the country in search of more freedom.

However, you need to choose carefully. At last count the UK is less authoritarian than 151 of the 167 countries in the world. If you are going to emigrate there are 15 places you could go that are better. Fortunately, 4 of them have English as a primary language and, not coincidentally, a system of government in the UK model.

  • Note that the cited index was made in the UK. Of course it's going to be biased in favour of the UK and its allies. Jul 12, 2021 at 16:15
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    I strongly suspect that the UK's place in this index is going to tank in 2021 Jul 12, 2021 at 19:19

Simply being under an authoritarian government is not sufficient grounds for asylum. There are plenty of states in the world that restrict political activity where many people living there face no persecution.

On the other hand, refugees can come from more "free" nations. Edward Snowden for example is a refugee from the United States.


You can check in advance if you flee to Norway. On this page, you can select a country and they will give you a current policy statements (though individual circumstances may differ). US and UK are "generally safe", Russia and North Korea are not. As they say for the "safe country" page,

your application for asylum will be processed and rejected within 48 hours. If you are over the age of 18, you will also be expelled from the Schengen area for one year.

I suspect they make an exception to the later in case you are a citizen of a country in the Schengen area. They follow the Dublin Regulation, where they send you back to where you came from, but the UK withdrew from that agreement. You could use some of the freedom indices to devise an average repression rating and see how that relates to Norwegian policy. As with all countries that I know of, asylum is based on personal safety and the ability of local authorities to protect you: and not how restrictive the laws of the country are.

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    If the refugee is from the schengen area, surely there's no point in applying for asylum? Jul 12, 2021 at 16:13

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