Hidden human suffering behind Government asylum backlog

Last updated October 29, 2014Press release

The Home Office is failing to administer a cost-effective UK asylum system, concludes a report released today by the Public Accounts Committee. The Committee also highlights the department’s failure to resolve an historical back-log of asylum claims inherited from the UK Border Agency.

Some 29,000 asylum cases dating back to at least 2007 are still not resolved and 11,000 have not yet received an initial decision, the report reveals among a medley of other concerning statistics.

In response, Refugee Action’s Chief Executive, Dave Garratt, said:

“What this report shows is that the Home Office is failing both the British people and vulnerable individuals and families seeking our protection.”

As well as the backlog issue, the PAC report, ‘Reforming the UK Border and Immigration System’, cites poor staffing decisions that led to the departure of 120 experienced caseworkers, and the expensive failure of several IT projects that compromised data and the ability to track people in the immigration system. A series of recommendations are made by the committee based on these findings.

Dave Garratt continues:

“It’s imperative we acknowledge the crux of this issue – if we go on treating asylum seekers inhumanely without proper process, we’ll continue to have backlogs. We will continue to have people remaining in the country whose claims were rejected if those people feel they haven’t had a fair hearing.”

“One in every four initial asylum decisions is overturned at appeal. We clearly need to build a system with a focus on quality decision making that gets it right first time. Rather than cutting costs at random, what’s needed is considered investment in legal aid to make sure people are properly represented.”

Access to advice and information for asylum seekers has been massively reduced in recent years, creating a false economy in the longer term.

Dave Garratt said:

“A lack of support means that asylum seekers don’t understand the complex system they’re expected to navigate. To avoid delays in future, it’s crucial to redesign the system based on an understanding of the experience of the people going through it.”

“We need a system that doesn’t deny people the right to work, forcing people to live below the poverty line on government hand-outs that are barely half of mainstream benefit amounts. Too many of the people Refugee Action sees are too busy worrying about how they are going to get enough to eat that day, when they should be able to concentrate on what is the most important legal process of their lives.”

“Let’s not lose perspective when contemplating these statistics; especially of the tremendous human suffering endured by each individual person trapped in limbo for years and unable to continue on with their lives with any sense of purpose or belonging. “

“We are in the middle of the greatest refugee crisis since World War II and the UK grants safety to significantly few refugees. For example, we’ve resettled less than 100 Syrian refugees and granted refugee status to less than 2,000 Syrians through the asylum system, when countries such as Lebanon and Turkey are hosting millions. We need to spend tax payer’s money more effectively, yes, but we should not cause further harm to those seeking safety on our shores.”

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