Asylum case backlog in UK rises to record levels prompting fury over figures

Migrant small boats cross The Channel on record breaking day

Rishi Sunak is floundering in his pledge to tackle the asylum backlog, as new figures show cases awaiting a decision have risen for yet another year.

The number of applicants awaiting an initial decision rose to 134,046 in the year to June 2023, up from 133,607 in March.

The Prime Minister has set a target of clearing the so-called legacy backlog of asylum applications lodged before June 2022.

On this he’s making progress, albeit slower than required.

The legacy backlog fell from 90,659 in June 2022 to 67,870 in June 2023.

READ MORE: Figures show asylum seekers applying to UK highest in two decades

While this fall looks decent, the Home Office will have to treble the number of decisions it is taking every three months to hit Mr Sunak’s target.

The Government still believes it is on its way to hitting this target by the end of 2023, after having doubled the number of caseworkers and promising to double the number again to 2,500 by the autumn of this year.

In March 2023, each caseworker carried out on average seven substantive interviews or made initial decisions on cases per month compared to just 4 in December 2022.

The legacy backlog progress is also being eroded by new entries leading to the overall increase in those awaiting decisions.

In total, 175,457 people were waiting for a decision, a 44 percent rise from the 122,213 a year prior.

This is now the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

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Earlier this week, the Institute for Public Policy Research said Britain faces a “perma-backlog” of asylum seekers be the time of the next election, with housing costs for migrants expected to soar to over £5 billion a year.

Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said a Labour government would “scrap the unworkable, unaffordable and unethical Rwanda plan and use that money to fund the National Crime Agency properly so they can work more effectively with Europol and Interpol”.

“We would clear the backlog by upgrading the seniority of the caseworkers and decision makers in the Home Office, and by triaging so you have high grant rate countries and low grant rate countries being processed much more quickly.”

Speaking on GB News this morning, Amnesty International’s Steve Valdez-Symonds said: “The single biggest reason why the asylum backlog keeps going up is because ministers have instituted a policy of attempting simply not to determine people’s claims”.

“They have only this year gone to the extent of passing a law that will into the future require them not to determine people’s claims, and if you keep doing this your backlog will get bigger.”

However Labour is also relying on a new returns deal with the EU, something Brussels recently told Britain isn’t going to happen.

Responding to this morning’s figures, the Home Office said: “The government’s focus is clear – we must stop the boats and prevent the unacceptable number of people risking their lives by making these dangerous and illegal crossings, which continue to place an unprecedented strain on our asylum system”.

“We’ve transformed our immigration system to work in our best interests by encouraging the best and brightest to come to the UK, to support the growth of the economy and boost prosperity, and we remain absolutely committed to reducing levels of immigration into this country.”

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