More than 45,000 migrants crossed Channel to UK in 2022
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A crackdown on the UK’s asylum seeker backlog to be launched today by Rishi Sunak will fast-track thousands of cases. Some 12,000 awaiting decisions, from Syria, Libya, Afghanistan and Yemen, will be among 92,000 to be processed by the end of the year.
The Prime Minister faces a crisis as asylum claims top 150,000 for the first time in more than 20 years, driven by a surge in migrants crossing the Channel in small boats.
His promise to clear the backlog by the end of this year means that Home Office staff have 10 months to clear 92,601 initial asylum claims which were in the system at the end of last June.
Mr Sunak has declared the issue a top priority and he is expected to shortly unveil proposed laws to bar anyone who enters the UK illegally from claiming asylum.
The Daily Express understands the policy will speed up processing claims for people from nations that typically have a high acceptance rate of more than 95 percent.
Asylum seekers subject to the process, which covers adults and child dependents but not lone migrants under 18 – will not be automatically interviewed. Instead, they will be told to fill in a 10-page questionnaire with 40 questions which may not all apply to them, and return it within 20 days before being offered an extension.
Home Office data shows the queue grew by 50,000 in a year.
A record 45,00 migrants arrived in small boats last year.
Taxpayers face a £2.1billion bill for asylum seekers’ accommodation, subsistence and other costs – £7million a day is being spent putting up 40,000 people in hotels.
Officials insisted the crackdown was not an asylum “amnesty” and said thorough security checks would still be carried out. Applicants may be called for interview and those who do not give the details and evidence needed may have their claim rejected.
Migrants granted asylum will be allowed to work and would have to find their own accommodation.
Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said on Wednesday: “It’s damning that the Home Office isn’t doing this already, given Labour has been calling for the fast-tracking of cases – including for safe countries like Albania – for months.”
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, welcomed moves to cut the backlog but said “the answer is not yet more bureaucratic hurdles and threats of applications being withdrawn.
“As it stands, the Prime Minister will fail to meet his commitment to clear the backlog by the end of this year.
“If he is serious about it there must be a more ambitious, workable, person-centred approach that sees the face behind the case.
A priority should be accelerating the asylum claims of thousands of unaccompanied children and those of the 10,000 people who have been waiting for more than three years, as well as making quick positive decisions for those from countries like Sudan and Iran that also have very high grant rates.”
He added: “Without these steps, the record backlog is only going to continue to grow, at great human and financial cost.”
But critics last night claimed that the changes would make life easier for people trafficking gangs.
Alp Mehmet, the chairman of campaigning think-tank Migration Watch UK, commented: “This is an amnesty in all but name.
“The message to the criminal gangs is, if you get your clients to destroy their ID and claim to be from a ‘high success’ country they’ll be tick-boxed into the UK.
“The Government’s plan is dangerous folly. The Home Secretary should think again.”
One senior Tory warned the plan “seems to reward the incompetence” of the Home Office’s failure to process people more quickly.
It also does not make sense that more than nine out of 10 people from some countries are granted asylum. That suggests that anyone coming from an area of conflict is granted asylum regardless of their personal circumstances.
“I do not want to see corners being cut in the process. The Home Office must follow the same rules for everyone.” Data in November showed more than 140,000 asylum applicants were waiting for a decision after the queue soared by more than 20,000 in three months.
In the year to September, there were 143,377 claims yet to be determined – 97,717 had been waiting for more than six months.
This was three times higher than the 45,255 applications awaiting an initial decision in 2019, when 26,125 had been waiting for more than six months.
The numbers are expected to continue to rise. The latest official data is due to be published today.
Anger is justified, says Braverman
Home Secretary Suella Braverman said housing asylum seekers in hotels is causing “understandable tensions” following ugly clashes between protesters.
She said violence was “never acceptable” but it is not “racist or bigoted” to acknowledge the problems caused to communities.
Anti-migrant protesters have gathered in recent weeks outside hotels in Knowsley, Merseyside and Rotherham, South Yorkshire, where they faced off with counter-demonstrators.
Asked if she supported the protesters, Ms Braverman said: “I understand people’s frustrations with hotels being occupied by large numbers of illegal immigrants or asylum seekers.”
In an interview with GB News, Ms Braverman said: “Violence is never acceptable and intimidation, harassment, any forms of abuse to anybody should be condemned and I condemn them in the fullest terms.
“We have an unsustainable situation where, because of the overwhelming numbers of people arriving illegally here and our legal duties to accommodate them, we are having to house them in hotels.
“That is causing understandable tensions within communities and pressures on local resources and is unsustainable.”
Ahead of a demo planned outside a hotel in Newquay, Cornwall later this month, the Conservative county council leader Linda Taylor branded the protesters “racist and bigoted”.
But Ms Braverman said: “There are really serious pressures on communities and saying so does not make you racist or bigoted.”
The Government is trying to find other accommodation, including empty holiday parks, former student halls or disused military barracks.
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