Home Office taking 'substantially' longer to process asylum claims than five years ago

Budget cuts and policy changes could be among reasons for delays, Migration Observatory says

Home Office headquarters in Whitehall. Photo: Yui Mok/PA

The Home Office is taking “substantially” longer to process asylum claims than it was five years ago, research by the Migration Observatory has revealed.

Three-quarters of asylum applicants now wait more than six months for an initial decision on their asylum case, up from a fifth in 2014, the University of Oxford-based research centre found.

The Home Office admitted earlier this year that it had scrapped its target to reach an initial decision for asylum claims within six months. It said it would instead “concentrate on cases with acute vulnerability”.


There were 32,000 people with outstanding asylum claims awaiting an initial decision on 30 June, when the researchers looked at the data. Nearly half – around 17,000 – had been waiting for more than six months.

The initial decision is only the first stage in the asylum process, which can extend to years for “many applicants” once appeals are accounted for, Peter Walsh, a researcher at the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, said.

“There is no single explanation for the falling share of decisions taken in six months,” he said. “Factors that could have played a role include changes to policy and management, the complexity of the cases the Home Office receives, and of course budget constraints.”

Overall, the report found that 55% of applications lodged between 2012 and 2016 were eventually successful.

Of the total, 38% received a grant of asylum, humanitarian protection or another form of leave to remain at the initial decision stage. Three-quarters of applicants who were initially rejected appealed – of which 40% were successful on appeal.

The report, published yesterday, also found a “highly unequal distribution” of asylum seekers around the country. Twenty local authorities, mostly in Scotland and the north of England, host as many asylum seekers as the remaining 362 combined, it said.

More than 150 local authorities did not host any asylum seekers in the year to June 2019, the researchers said.

Local authorities are not obliged to host asylum seekers and critics, including the Home Affairs Select Committee, have warned that governance arrangements for asylum-seeker housing risk becoming a deterrent for local government.

HASC has urged the government to step up its support for and engagement with local authorities and to make them responsible for inspecting properties – which is now left up to private contractors that run the services.

In April, the Home Office turned down the recommendation to transfer responsibility for inspections but said it was developing new structures to create a “more tripartite relationship” between local government, contractors and the Home Office.

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