Sunak claims asylum backlog has been cleared

More than 4,000 "complex" cases remain in legacy backlog, while total backlog stands at just under 100,000
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By Tevye Markson

02 Jan 2024

Rishi Sunak has claimed the Home Office has cleared the asylum backlog, but almost 100,000 cases remain in limbo, including thousands of "legacy" applications.

In December 2022, the prime minister pledged to "abolish the backlog of initial asylum decisions" within a year. This was later clarified as eliminating around 91,000 "legacy" asylum applications submitted before June 28, 2022.

Statistics released by the Home Office this morning show that 112,138 applications asylum decisions were made in in total last year, with 86,800 of these part of the legacy backlog. The Home Office said on Monday that all pre-June 28, 2022 cases have been reviewed, but 4,537 “complex cases have been highlighted that require additional checks or investigation for a final decision to be made”.

“These hard cases typically relate to asylum seekers presenting as children – where age verification is taking place; those with serious medical issues; or those with suspected past convictions, where checks may reveal criminality that would bar asylum,” the department added.

A further 94,062 cases remain in the non-legacy backlog, meaning the total backlog now stands at 98,599.

The Home Office ramped up recruitment of asylum caseworkers last year to tackle the backlog, doubling its number of decision makers to 2,500 by September. The department also offered incentives to staff to improve processing times.

The total number of decisions made in 2023 is more than three times higher than in 2022. The Home Office also said that there were more decisions made between 20 November and 17 December 2023 than the whole of 2021. The grant rate for asylum decisions in 2023, meanwhile, is 67%, compared to 76% in 2022 and 72% in 2021.

Sunak today claimed the government had cleared the backlog despite the tens of thousands of cases which remain undecided.

On X, formerly Twitter, Sunak wrote: “I said that this government would clear the backlog of asylum decisions by the end of 2023. That’s exactly what we’ve done. Over 112,000 cases are now cleared with a lower grant rate than last year, a key part of our plan to stop the boats.”

Another of Sunak's pledges is to "stop the boats".  Small boat crossings were down by 36% in 2023, the Home Office's end-of-year statistics show. 

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