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Evening Standard
Evening Standard
Miriam Burrell

Home Office must process asylum claim ‘every four minutes’ to hit backlog target, Refugee Council claims

The Home Office must clear more than 10,000 asylum cases a month to meet the Prime Minister’s commitment of tackling the “legacy” backlog by the end of the year, a new report suggests.

That would equate to 354 decisions a day or one decision every four minutes, the Guardian reports.

Refugee Council analysis released on Wednesday found that the Home Office must make 10,630 decisions on asylum cases each month from now until December to clear the backlog.

“Every day at the Refugee Council [we] see the devastating impact that delays in the system have on those we work with,” the report said.

“Given the failure to simply grant status to the 49 per cent of people in hotels from high grant countries, now is the time to make significant changes to the process.”

But the Home Office said it does not “recognise the analysis of these figures” and claims it is still “on track” to clear a backlog of legacy claims that stood at 74,410 as of May 28 this year.

The Refugee Council said: “Without significant increases in the rate of decision making, it is unlikely that the target will be met.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to clear the backlog of 92,601 initial asylum decisions relating to claims made before June 28 2022 by the end of this year.

But the council suggested that while the legacy backlog has reduced, a backlog of “flow” cases is “increasing at roughly the same rate” - and the number of decision makers has declined since the Prime Minister made his commitment.

It added: “The Government must also recognise that the Illegal Migration Bill, if enacted in its current form, could create a cohort of over 190,000 people in the first three years who will be stuck in a permanent limbo in the UK with huge human and financial costs.”

The report said asylum cases from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan and Syria make up a third of the total backlog of initial decisions - and nearly three quarters of those cases are at least six months old.

All five countries have very high asylum grant rates, and the Refugee Council suggested the Home Office could save £5.34 million a day if these cases were processed.

“If the 42,000 people from those five countries who are being accommodated by the Home Office were given decisions…that would allow for the use of hotels to be reduced by 89 per cent,” it explained.

“This could save the Home Office £5.34 million a day.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not recognise the analysis of these figures.

“We are on track to clear the ‘legacy’ asylum backlog which has already been reduced by 17,000 cases. The number of decisions being made overall is up by 35 per cent and we are also doubling the number of caseworkers to further speed up the system.

“We are committed to ensuring all asylum claims are considered without unnecessary delay to reduce the cost to the taxpayer of expensive hotels.

“The Streamlined Asylum Questionnaire is also simplifying the decision-making process. All asylum seekers are entitled to legal representation to support them with it.”

The Home Office aims to have 2,500 case workers by the autumn. Latest figures showed each case worker carrying out, on average, seven interviews or decisions on cases per month, compared to just four in December.

In the year ending March 2023, there were 19,706 initial decisions made on asylum claims, 35 per cent more than in the previous year.

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