Asylum Backlog Continues Despite Misleading Comments

31 January 2024

Attempts from the Home Office to deliver Rishi Sunak’s pledge to clear the asylum backlog of more than 92,000 “legacy” cases – cases lodged before July 2022 – by the end of 2023 has failed. Over 4,500 of these legacy cases remain unresolved.

The Home Office refers to these unresolved cases as “complex” in an attempt to justify the lengthy waiting times they are subjecting those fleeing persecution to. Many of the claimants with ‘resolved’ cases have received “shocking” refusals, acting as a delaying tactic – their solicitors forced to appeal further down the line at the immigration tribunal. When these cases are refused – requiring appeal at a later date – they are no longer considered legacy cases, but rather as “secondary asylum casework”. This policy trickery focuses attention on the clearance of one backlog without acknowledging the creation of another.  

The increased number of claimants being issued with positive decisions and being evicted from their Home Office accommodation resulted in a huge increase in the demand for housing during a UK-wide housing crisis. This lack of foresight left thousands of new refugees without access to adequate housing during the winter period, placing immeasurable strain on local authorities’ homelessness services across the UK. 

The push to process legacy cases by the end of the year saw the Home Office deploy an additional 1,200 asylum caseworkers, who were offered increasingly higher annual day rates – paid in vouchers – as a bonus for completing additional shifts in November and December. A Home Office press release had heralded its own success by claiming that the backlog of legacy asylum cases had been cleared. Rishi Sunak had also claimed in social media posts that the asylum backlog had been cleared, only to be rebuked by the UK’s statistics watchdog claiming that the phrasing and choice of language could lead to people feeling “misled”. 

Forgetting for a moment the Prime Minister’s misleading claim that the legacy backlog has been cleared, there are still nearly 100,000 cases in the asylum backlog where an initial decision has not been reached by the Home Office. There are clear and obvious solutions to these problems, including social housing, safe and legal routes, permission to work and the re-direction of funds currently being wasted on the Rwanda plan. Nonetheless, the Home Office continues to pursue policies which, most recently, have resulted in 5,598 asylum claimants being lost. We are seeing people seeking asylum pushed into crisis after crisis, far from the compassion they need and deserve.  

Adam Paterson (Advocacy and Campaigns Officer) and Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead)


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