Asylum backlog almost doubles as researchers warn Illegal Migration Act could create ‘perma-backlog’

24 August 2023

Today it has been announced that the number of people waiting over 6 months for an initial decision has increased by 57% creating another record high. In May, the number of people waiting over 6 months rose above 128,000, marking a 3200% increase over 12 years. 

This comes in the week that new research from the Institute for Public Policy Research found that the Illegal Migration Act- a piece of legislation effectively amounting to a ban on claiming asylum in the UK- will lead to thousands more joining the existing backlog, remaining in legal limbo without the right to work or take steps to rebuild their lives safe from conflict and persecution.  

Whilst drastically increasing the number of people waiting in limbo in the UK, the research also estimates that favouring these hostile policies and the failure to create effective legal pathways for people seeking safety could wind up costing £6 billion per year. Researchers warned of the ‘dire and increasingly costly challenge’ faced by the Government if they pursue this path. This comes as the Home Office rejects the rollout of a UN-endorsed asylum project that has been described as ‘more humane’, and dramatically less costly. The Home Office is choosing to pay for the misery of people seeking safety.  

At Positive Action in Housing, we work with many people who have been trapped in the asylum system for years and years. They speak to us about the impacts of this indefinite waiting on their mental health, as they are unable to move forward with their lives or take decisions to improve their circumstances. As people arrive in the UK, seeking safety from the horrors of war and persecution, the Home Office is choosing to lock them into a system of neglect, hardship and destitution.  

This choice is costly, inhumane and ineffective. Cost analysis by Reclaim the Sea conducted this year found that attempts to move people seeking safety from hotels to barges is highly unlikely to save any significant amount of money, and yet has already placed people at risk of contracting fatal disease. The Refugee Council is also voicing concerns that the Illegal Migration Act will lead to thousands more people being at risk of destitution and homelessness, suggesting that detention of new arrivals could cost £1.4 billion per year.  

The unfolding crisis of a permanent backlog is a Home Office-made crisis. Our asylum system does not need to function like this. In the face of the repeated claims that hostile policies will ‘stop the boats’, these reports contribute to the mounting evidence that UK asylum policy is dysfunctional and designed to fail.  

Sarah (Campaigns Volunteer), and Iona Taylor (Advocacy and Campaigns Lead). 

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