"The asylum backlog is a political choice”
More people than ever are waiting to have their asylum claims processed in the UK, and for longer, as figures today revealed the asylum backlog has reached a record new high.
Refugee charities, politicians and trade unions have slammed the government’s hostile environment to refugees, using the latest figures as evidence of Tory ministers’ focus on scapegoating asylum seekers, rather than creating a system to improve the application process.
The number of people waiting on whether they will be granted refugee status was more than 175,000 at the end of June 2023, a 44% increase on last year. With the number of applicants waiting at least 6 months rose to 106,543, more than double the number 18 months ago.
Refugees face ‘immense suffering’ from the huge backlog, the charity Refugee Action has said as they accused ministers of taking a ‘cruel obsession with deterrence’ over workable solutions.
“The huge backlog in asylum decision making is a product of the Government’s hostile environment and it is causing immense suffering to refugees who just want to get on with their lives,” commented Refugee Action.
“Ministers must stop their cruel obsession with deterrence and focus on workable and rights-based solutions.
“This includes giving leave to remain to anyone who has waited more than 12 months for a decision on their claim, scrapping its inadmissibility policy and allowing people to work while they wait.”
Fears that asylum seekers could be pushed ‘underground’ and into the informal economy due to the Home Office’s approach to the asylum backlog was flagged by the IPPR think tank. This was in response to figures which show that the number of asylum applications being withdrawn have rocketed in the past year, from 60 cases to 15,308.
The think tank also said the Home Offices’ current approach could cost billions each year, with the Illegal Migration Act only set to make matters worse.
Head of Bargaining at the PCS union for civil servants, Paul O’Connor, said the best way to reduce the ‘unacceptable’ backlog is to provide more resources to the department.
“This means properly training and paying staff so they can carry out the work quickly, efficiently and humanely,” O’Connor said.
Recating to the new figures, MP Nadia Whittome issued an important reminder: “The asylum backlog is a political choice.
“It only exists because the Home Office would rather engage in performative cruelty than process asylum claims and let people get on with their lives.”
Government spending on asylum in the UK has almost doubled to £3.97 billion in 2022-23.
The Prime Minster set a target of clearing the so-called legacy backlog of asylum applications by the end of this year, which would mean they’ll have to process 11,311 cases per month. The current average is 2,061 cases a month.
Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues