Tens of thousands of refugees are waiting for more than a year for a decision on their asylum claim, with hundreds waiting more than five years, according Home Office data obtained by the Refugee Council.
In June 2022, 122,206 were waiting for an initial decision, compared with 29,522 in December 2017.
According to Free Movement, an organisation staffed by legal experts providing advice on migration, the key to making timely decisions is the recruitment and retention of well-trained asylum decision-makers. The more people able to make decisions, the more decisions should be made. In 2016, there was a significant fall in the number of people making decisions on asylum.
For the financial year 2014/15, there were 409 Home Office civil servants carrying out interviews and making asylum decisions. But, according to the Home Office’s transparency statistics, this fell by more than a third over the following year to just 260 people. The Home Office data reveal the impact this had. In 2015 the department made 28,623 decisions on asylum applications. This fell by a quarter to 21,269 in 2017 and has never recovered to previous levels.
Following a report by the Home Affairs Select Committee that was critical of the delays in asylum decision-making, in April 2014 the Home Office introduced a service standard that 98% of straightforward asylum applications should be decided within six months. Of the claims that were submitted from March 2014 to the end of the year (including those deemed non-straightforward), only 8% received a decision within six months.
It has also emerged that only four Afghan refugees have been resettled in the UK through one of the government’s flagship schemes, the Afghan Citizens’ Resettlement Scheme, which had aimed to welcome 5000 vulnerable Afghans during its first year. The more successful ARAP, Afghan Relocation Assistance Policy, aimed at Afghans who supported the UK’s military operations, has included around 6,500 refugees, but many of these are still living in hotels.
“Until the UK government accepts its share of people into its asylum system, particularly people with family and connections in the UK, there seems little prospect that anything is going to change, let alone improve,” the charity insisted.
And commentators are unimpressed with Suella Braverman’s new small boats deal with France. Amnesty International UK has condemned it as a “failed response”.
Sadiq Khan, the London Mayor, dismissed the deal as “red meat” for people who were concerned about migration, telling Times Radio that tough rhetoric was not addressing the core concern of 40,000 people crossing the Channel in little boats.
MPs on the Home Office Select Committee were nonplussed when, in answer to questioning from Tim Loughton, Suella Braverman appeared unaware that there were extremely limited safe routes to the UK for child refugees experiencing danger and persecution in their own countries. The flustered Home Secretary had to turn to her civil servants for confirmation that the UNHCR scheme would almost certainly be impossible for children from many countries to access. She was also unable to explain why the Manston detention centre had been housing 4000 refugees in a facility designed to hold 1600 for no more than 24 hours.
The Sunday Times has revealed that dozens of migrants with suspected diphtheria have been moved from Manston to hotels round the country.
Jim McManus, president of the Association of Directors of Public Health , told the newspaper that the situation had been entirely preventable, and criticised the Home Office of lacking engagement.
The Guardian reports that the Home Office has “altered” the birth dates of unaccompanied child refugees, leading to some of them being wrongly detained at Manston.
The Refugee Council has said that interviews with 16 children released from the camp revealed that some of the boys with identity documents had their birth dates changed to make them over 18. Sonia Lambert, a Refugee Council worker, said the boys were very distressed that their ages had been changed, despite their protests.
Meanwhile, the charity Safe Passage reports that they are still waiting for permission to reunite several Afghan minors, already in the UK, with family members living here.
Finally, some good news from Sarah at Safe Passage:
“The news over the last few days has been awful to read. At a time when refugees arriving in the UK are thrown into camps or abandoned on the streets of London, I thought I’d share with you a good news story.
We were lucky enough to attend the midnight arrival of Habib* to the UK, who we helped reunite with his uncle and family here. Here’s the moment they were reunited!
Habib is 17, and was separated from his family as they fled Afghanistan last year. He ended up alone in Europe but has had no word or update from his family since. With our help, he applied to join his uncle who lives in the UK with his wife and children.
I was thrilled to welcome Habib to the UK after his application was approved.”
*Habib’s name has been changed to protect his identity.