UK unlikely to clear asylum backlog this year, warns watchdog

Report delays within the processing of asylum purposes have led to spiralling prices, in keeping with the UK public spending watchdog, which has forged doubt on the federal government’s capability to fulfill its promise of clearing the backlog in 2023.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and residential secretary Suella Braverman have made resolving the pile-up of instances, which now run to 75,000, to the tip of June final yr central to resetting the asylum system. They’re motivated partially by the necessity to slash the £6mn a day that the federal government says it’s spending on housing asylum seekers in accommodations.

Braverman has additionally proposed new laws that, if it turns into regulation, will bar anybody reaching the UK with out prior permission from claiming asylum altogether.

However in a report launched on Friday, the Nationwide Audit Workplace stated the Dwelling Workplace spent £3.6bn on asylum help prices in 2022-23, virtually double the quantity in 2021-22 and £2.2bn greater than budgeted for the division’s asylum and safety group. The extra funding required was draining the UK’s abroad assist price range, it stated.

“One issue behind the mounting prices is delays in asylum decision-making,” the NAO stated, noting a gradual improve within the time taken to course of claims. Regardless of virtually doubling the variety of case staff since final yr, the programme remains to be lagging.

On the finish of March 2023, 129,000 folks — or 75 per cent of the full — who had claimed asylum had waited greater than six months for an preliminary choice, the NAO stated. This in contrast with 43 per cent on the finish of March 2017 and 61 per cent on the finish of March 2020.

“Regardless of current progress, the asylum and safety transformation programme is a good distance from assembly authorities’s ambitions,” NAO head Gareth Davies stated.

“The Dwelling Workplace has practically doubled the variety of choices made every week, though it’s unclear whether or not it is going to be sufficient to take away the backlog of older asylum choices by the tip of 2023. To this point, the programme shouldn’t be on observe to realize the anticipated advantages,” he added.

The NAO stated that prioritising legacy claims would additionally in all probability result in a contemporary backlog in newer claims, “rising from virtually 61,000 in April 2023 to round 84,000 by December 2023”.

It might require a median of two,200 choices every week from Could 2023 to fulfill Sunak’s pledge to clear the legacy backlog by the yr’s finish, the NAO estimated. The speed as of April stood at 1,310.

Questioned by the Home of Commons residence affairs choose committee on Wednesday, Braverman acknowledged that the federal government wouldn’t meet its targets on the present tempo. However she stated that her division was persevering with to spice up the variety of case staff and the variety of asylum choices would rise in the direction of the tip of the yr.

“We’re transferring in the appropriate course,” she stated, stressing that it could by no means be attainable to clear the numbers altogether as a result of “the boats preserve coming”.

Responding to the report, the Dwelling Workplace stated: “The federal government is working nonstop to scale back the asylum backlog and ship cheaper, extra orderly options to lodge lodging.”

“Because the NAO acknowledges, we’ve already doubled the variety of caseworkers and reduce the legacy backlog by 20 per cent, however we all know extra have to be completed to carry the asylum system again into steadiness.”

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