Sunak rebuked by stats watchdog over asylum backlog claim

In a letter to opposition MPs who had complained, the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said Mr Sunak’s claim had been “presented without context”…reports Asian Lite News

Rishi Sunak has been rebuked by the UK’s statistics watchdog over his claim to have cleared the backlog of asylum claims.

The Home Office claimed earlier this month to have cleared a “legacy” backlog of 92,000 applications lodged before July 2022.

The prime minister then posted on social media to say “the backlog of asylum decisions” had been cleared. But the watchdog said people may have felt “misled” by his language.

Official figures show a decision had not been reached in 4,537 of the “legacy” cases highlighted by the Home Office. And they also showed that there are still 98,599 cases in the overall backlog where an initial decision has yet to be made.

In a letter to opposition MPs who had complained, the UK Statistics Authority (UKSA) said Mr Sunak’s claim had been “presented without context”.

The boss of the watchdog, Sir Robert Chote, added that the episode “may affect public trust when the government sets targets and announces whether they have been met” in other areas.

He also criticised the Home Office for not detailing the 4,537 legacy cases without a decision when it initially made its announcement in an embargoed press release to journalists.

This prevented reporters from being “able to scrutinise the data when first reporting it,” he added. Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Alistair Carmichael, one of the MPs who complained to the UKSA, said the government had been “twisting the facts”.

“Thousands of vulnerable people are still living in limbo as they wait for their claims to be processed,” he said.

The reprimand comes just weeks after the UKSA rebuked No 10 for saying that the government had reduced debt. The watchdog suggested that claim “may have undermined trust in the government’s use of statistics”.

The prime minister was also criticised for his use of asylum backlog figures in April 2023. He had said that the backlog was half the size it was when Labour was last in office, but the UKSA said he was comparing with the wrong figures.

Stephen Kinnock MP, Labour’s shadow immigration minister, who also complained to the UKSA, accused the prime minister of “playing fast and loose with the facts”. “He has not cleared the backlog – there are 100,000 people still awaiting a decision,” he said.

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