Asylum backlog in UK hits record high

A total of 175,457 people were waiting for an initial decision on an asylum application in the UK at the end of June 2023, up 44%…reports Asian Lite News

The backlog of asylum claims in the UK has hit a new record high, according to Home Office figures. A total of 175,457 people were waiting for an initial decision on an asylum application in the UK at the end of June 2023, up 44% at the end of June 2022 and the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

It means the total cost of the asylum has now reached £3.97bn a year – up by £1.85 billion in 2022/23, from £2.12 billion in 2021/22. In 2012/13, the total was £500.2 million.

The Home Office said the “unacceptable number of people risking their lives” coming to the UK via small boats across the Channel was “placing an unprecedented strain on our asylum system”.

The government spokesperson added: “Our priority is to stop the boats, and our Small Boats Operational Command is working alongside our French partners and other agencies to disrupt the people smugglers.”

But according to the Migration Observatory, the department’s figures showed that only 41% of asylum seekers arrived by this route – down on the previous year when it was 45% – even though the overall number of applications rose.

Dr Peter William Walsh, senior researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford said political debate had been “hyper-focused on small boats”, but it did not reflect the larger proportion of people who used other routes.

The number of people waiting more than six months for an initial asylum decision stood at 139,961 at the end of June, up 57% year-on-year from 89,231 and another record high.

In total, there were 134,046 cases being dealt with by the Home Office in relation to the 175,457 people waiting for an initial decision at the end of June 2023.

At the end of July 2023, the number of cases being handled had risen to 136,779 – but the data does not show how many people this related to.

The number of people lodging asylum claims has also risen to a two-decade high.

Some 78,768 applications were made in the year to June 2023 – again, there can be more than one person covered by each application.

This is 19% higher than the previous 12 months, and higher than the European migration crisis, where 36,546 applications were made in a 12-month period.

Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s shadow immigration minister, said: “These new statistics set out in stark terms the complete chaos the Tories have created in the immigration and asylum system.

“The asylum backlog has reached a new record high, with 175,000 people now waiting for decisions. Only 1% of last year’s 45,000 small boats cases have received a decision and the number of failed asylum seekers being returned is also down a whopping 70% since 2010. This is a disastrous record for the prime minister and home secretary.

“With this level of mismanagement, there is very little prospect of reducing the eye-wateringly high bill for hotel rooms for all those left in limbo, currently costing the British taxpayer £6 million a day.”

There has also been a sharp rise in the number of worker visas issued in the past year compared to the previous 12 months.

The new statistics published by the Home Office also show a 63% rise in the number of people coming to the UK on work visas in the year to June 2023, compared to the year to June 2022 – meaning 538,887 arrived to work in the past year.

The number of study visas issued is up 34% to 657,208.

Both these figures include dependents brought into the UK on the programmes alongside the main visa holder.

This means that 208,295 more people came to the UK on work visas in the 12 months to June 2023 and 165,968 more people entered on study visas. It comes despite a Tory 2019 manifesto commitment to “bring overall numbers down”.

The government has changed the law to mean that, from January 2024, people on student visas will no longer be able to bring dependents with them. A sizeable proportion of those entering on work visas are health and care workers, for whom the government created a new pathway in 2020.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The public rightly expects us to control immigration and ensure it works in the UK’s best interests, by filling skills gaps and growing the economy.

“Health and care visas made up the largest proportion of work visas granted. These workers are helping our health and social care sector by providing a much-needed staffing boost.”

But Jonathan Gullis, a Tory MP and member of the New Conservatives group said,”I think a lot of people will rightly be concerned to see another huge rise in skilled worker visas particularly as the thresholds in education have been reduced, so we will probably be continuing to rely on cheap foreign labour into the future, whenever there is a shortage.

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