As we continue to live through Covid-19, it is unsurprising the pandemic is still having an impact on the UK asylum system. The latest immigration statistics published today illustrate this impact on applications, decisions, asylum support and resettlement. You can also see a summary of the findings we have picked out as most interesting, here.
The statistics reveal that once again, and as expected, asylum applications fell, with application numbers being 24% lower than in the previous 12 months. The UK is behind 16 other countries in Europe in terms of the number of asylum applications per head of the population. This clearly calls into question attempts by the Home Office to limit asylum applications to this country, notably through the recently announced New Plan for Immigration. Not only this, the fall in the number of people claiming asylum stands in contrast to much of the media coverage and political commentary of recent times which very often suggests the contrary.
One area of real concern is the high number of people who have been told that their claims may be inadmissible, (1,503 people), following the introduction of new inadmissibility rules in December 2020. This represents over 1,500 having been told by the Home Office that they may be sent elsewhere, despite this government having made no agreements whatsoever with any other country to make this possible.
It is particularly alarming that thousands of people have to wait years for a decision on their claim, leaving them in limbo and unable to plan for their futures. The backlog in cases awaiting an initial decision continued to rise to another record high. At the end of March 2021, 66,185 people were waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum. Of these, a staggering 50,084 – three quarters have been waiting for more than 6 months.
Also of note is the fact that the Syrian resettlement scheme met its 20.000 target in February, though it is failure on the part of this government that the new resettlement scheme that started in March has been given no new target. Targets are essential for running a refugee resettlement programme, to provide certainty and advance notice on the length and scale of resettlement ambitions so that they can properly plan multi-year services.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council responded to today’s figures, by saying:
“People fleeing war and persecution have no choice but to risk their lives on perilous journeys to reach safety in the UK. For decades they have been given a fair hearing on British soil, but under new rules, the government is harshly seeking to send them back. This is cruel and unjust, sending a message to the world that we are a country without compassion for our fellow humans who have experienced great trauma and suffering through no fault of their own.
“This has been happening when the numbers of people who seek safety in the UK is in fact decreasing, which calls into question the kneejerk and harmful proposals by this government to limit asylum applications and effectively slam the door in the face of the relatively low number of people coming to the UK to claim asylum.
“We remain deeply concerned by the record high numbers of people waiting in limbo on news of their fate, unable to begin new lives. This could easily be resolved through additional resourcing and more effective decision making, however, we fear it is only set to worsen as the new rules continue to have an impact on asylum cases.”