UK asylum claims at highest level since 2004, with record backlog of cases


Asylum claims made in the UK have risen to their highest level for nearly 20 years, according to new figures from the Home Office, as the head of the Refugee Council calls for less “nationalist posturing” over people fleeing war zones.

The backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with is also at a record high, with 67,547 people in the queue and more than 125,000 either waiting for a decision or due to be removed from the UK.

The figures come as the head of the Refugee Council calls on the government to find a better and more humane way to deal with refugees and asylum claims.

Analysis by the council published last week shows that almost all arrivals in the 18 months to June this year were from 10 countries, including Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan, “where persecution is not uncommon”.

It said that more than six out of 10 people from these countries seeking asylum in the UK are granted refugee status or protection.

The council’s chief executive, Enver Solomon, said: “The horrific deaths in the Channel require the government to stop and think again. Less empty rhetoric, more intelligent realism, less nationalist posturing, more global leadership – and most importantly, less punitive control.”

A government spokesperson said the statistics showed “the complex scale of the global migration crisis” but also that the Home Office’s new “points-based system is delivering on the people’s priorities, by welcoming those who have the skills the country need while encouraging businesses to invest in British people”.

It added that “a significant proportion” of the asylum claims “should have been made in a first safe country, rather than people risking their lives making dangerous crossings”, a reference to an EU-wide policy. It has been criticised by countries such as Italy and Greece, which have been the first port of call for millions of people fleeing African countries, Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.

A total of 37,562 applications were made in the year to September, more than in any 12-month period since the year to June 2004, when just under 40,000 applications were made. It is also higher than the numbers seen at the peak of the European migration crisis in 2015 and 2016 (36,546).

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Data also shows that, in the year to 31 March 2021, more than 50,000 people were waiting more than six months for a decision.

Separate figures published on Thursday show the Home Office is also facing a massive backlog dealing with EU citizens already in the country who are now forced to obtain immigration status to live, work, study or retire in the UK.

More than 5.8 million EU and European Economic Area citizens and their families, including 1 million children, have been granted immigration status to remain in the UK post-Brexit, official data has shown.

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However, there is a queue of 400,000 people awaiting a decision, and a second backlog of people who have already been granted temporary “pre-settled status” who are obliged to make a fresh application to stay before they have been in the UK for five years or more.

The latest figures on asylum applications show 67,547 people were awaiting a decision at the end of September – up 41% year-on-year and the highest since current records began in June 2010.

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