A recent report published by the Public Accounts Committee into the UK border and immigration system exposes particularly damning statistics of asylum backlogs in the Home Office. The report found a staggering 29,000 asylum applications remaining unresolved for a period of approximately 7 years, with almost half of these cases (11,000) not even receiving an initial decision on their asylum claims.
The report highlights that the Home Office has failed to deal with the longstanding backlog of asylum claims that were transferred to it following the removal of the UK Border Agency department in March 2013 and the transfer of its functions to the Home Office.
Office's record for the assessment of newer claims unfortunately does not stack up any better. The Home Office is failing to meet its stated target for the processing of asylum applications and making decisions on those applications within 6 months (or longer for more complex claims).
These backlogs are being blamed partly on an unsuccessful restructure by the UK Border Agency which effectively downgraded its numbers of staff resulting in the removal of 120 experienced caseworkers.
In our experience dealing with particularly complex asylum cases, these have on average taken 1 to 2 years whilst some clients have been waiting for a decision in excess of 2 years.
There are further problems associated with the inability of the Home Office to track those applications that have been rejected in order to ensure those asylum seekers are removed from the UK. The report indicates that there were over 175,000 people in this category at the end of 2013-2014. Currently the Home Office has not been able to establish a mechanism by which to identify those asylum seekers who remain in the UK illegally or those who have left the UK voluntarily as there is no system in place to check departures from the UK.
For those asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application, the uncertainty and delays are particularly frustrating for them. In our experience, the Home Office is reluctant to provide specific timeframes by which a particular case will be decided upon and there also appears to be a high threshold by which the Home Office will only give consideration to prioritising applications that are compelling enough based on the client's circumstances.
In view of this report and its recommendations, it remains to be seen whether the Home Office will be able to clear this significant backlog to allow for the quicker processing of newer claims.
13 November 2014