UK asylum backlog hits record 175,000 as applications last year reached two-decade high

FILE - Migrants successfully cross the English Channel to reach the U.K. from the European mainland.
By Thomas Brooke
4 Min Read

There are more than 175,000 people living in Britain awaiting a decision on their asylum applications, the highest figure reported since records began in 2010, Home Office data published on Thursday showed.

The asylum backlog had extended to 175,457 individuals awaiting an initial decision by the end of June this year, up 44 percent from June 2022.

Similarly, the number of asylum applications submitted this year reached a two-decade high, with 78,768 applications relating to 97,390 people, up 19 percent from the previous year.

“This is higher than at the time of the European migration crisis (in 2016) and is the highest number of applications for two decades,” the Home Office stated.

The most common nationality of applicants was Albanian with 11,790 applications, followed by Afghans with 9,964 applications, double the number received from the country in the previous year.

A total of 71 percent of all decisions made in the year to June granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, more than double the percentage granted prior to the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to clear the legacy asylum backlog — i.e., asylum applications made up to June last year — by the end of this year, but Home Office officials have only cleared an average of 2,061 cases a month.

With another 67,870 cases remaining, the government faces the seemingly impossible task of processing over 11,000 cases every month for the rest of the year to meet its target.

Irregular immigration into Britain has also skyrocketed this year, with 52,530 migrants detected entering the U.K. without permission in the year ending June 2023, up 17 percent from the previous year. A total of 85 percent of these arrived via small boats across the English Channel.

The vast majority of these are being accommodated in hotels across the country, with an estimated cost of £6 million per day to U.K. taxpayers. A total of 47,518 migrants were being housed in hotels in March 2023, rising to 50,546 by June despite the government making pledges to reduce this figure.

According to the Home Office data, the government’s annual spending on asylum has almost doubled from £2.12 billion in 2021-2022 to £3.97 billion in 2022-2023.

“The Tories have failed us all on immigration,” conservative broadcaster Nigel Farage posted in response to the figures, while Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister Stephen Kinnock said the statistics “set out in stark terms the complete chaos the Tories have created in the immigration and asylum system.

“Only 1 percent 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 percent since 2010. This is a disastrous record for the prime minister and home secretary,” he added.

Despite Labour’s protestations, the party has regularly refused to commit to reducing immigration levels should they come to power as expected at the next general election.

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