Asylum Claims and Backlog Soar to Record Highs in the UK
The United Kingdom is facing a significant surge in new asylum claims and an unprecedented backlog of individuals awaiting initial decisions. Despite the government’s 2019 pledge to decrease the influx of people entering the UK, both legal migration for work and studies have also witnessed a notable increase.
The Home Office has recently released figures revealing an alarming state of affairs. The backlog of asylum claims in the UK has reached an all-time high, with a staggering 175,457 individuals awaiting their initial application decision by the end of June 2023. This number marks a substantial 44% rise from the same period in the previous year, and it represents the highest figure since record-keeping began in 2010.
Financially, the burden of handling asylum cases has also surged. The annual cost related to asylum matters has now escalated to £3.97 billion. This reflects a substantial increase of £1.85 billion from the previous year, skyrocketing from £2.12 billion in 2021/22. To put this in perspective, in 2012/13, the cost was a mere £500.2 million.
The Home Office expressed deep concern over the escalating numbers of individuals undertaking perilous journeys across the English Channel in small boats. This method of entry has placed an “unprecedented strain on our asylum system,” according to a government spokesperson. In response, efforts are being directed towards thwarting people smugglers and preventing such dangerous crossings. The government’s Small Boats Operational Command collaborates with French partners and other agencies to disrupt these illicit activities.
Surprisingly, statistics from the Migration Observatory contradicted the notion that small boats accounted for the majority of asylum seekers. While political discourse has heavily focused on this particular route, only 41% of asylum seekers arrived in the UK through this means, a decline from the previous year’s 45%. The overall number of applications has risen, underscoring the need for a comprehensive approach to address different entry points.
Dr. Peter William Walsh, a senior researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, emphasized that the disproportionate emphasis on small boats did not accurately represent the broader spectrum of entry routes chosen by asylum seekers.
The backlog challenge is further exacerbated by the increasing number of individuals waiting for over six months to receive their initial asylum decisions. This figure surged by 57%, from 89,231 to 139,961, within a year.
By the end of June 2023, the Home Office was handling a total of 134,046 cases related to the 175,457 individuals awaiting initial decisions. The figures from July 2023 revealed a further rise in cases being processed, reaching 136,779, though specific details regarding the number of individuals were not provided.
Adding to the complexity, the number of asylum claims lodged has surged to a level not seen in two decades. Approximately 78,768 applications were submitted in the year leading up to June 2023. This figure represents a 19% increase compared to the preceding 12 months. It even surpasses the European migration crisis figures, where 36,546 applications were recorded within a year.
Labour’s shadow immigration minister, Stephen Kinnock, criticized the government’s handling of the situation, deeming the statistics a testament to the “complete chaos the Tories have created in the immigration and asylum system.” With only a minute percentage of small boat cases receiving decisions, and the return rate of failed asylum seekers dropping by 70% since 2010, concerns over mismanagement and the financial burden on taxpayers continue to mount.
In a surprising turn of events, the UK has also witnessed a sharp rise in worker and study visas. Work visas experienced a remarkable 63% surge in the year leading up to June 2023, amounting to 538,887 individuals arriving for employment. Similarly, study visas rose by 34%, totaling 657,208.
It is worth noting that these figures encompass dependents arriving alongside the primary visa holders. As the UK grapples with these complex challenges and soaring numbers, a multifaceted strategy appears essential to address the varying aspects of migration and asylum concerns.