Today the Government has issued its quarterly immigration statistics up to the end of September 2018.
The figures reveal that the number of overall asylum applications increased by 4% in the year ending September 2018. There were a total of 27,966 asylum applications. This figure still remains far lower than levels seen in previous years and most notably 2015 and 2016, when higher numbers of refugees were reaching Europe.
The statistics show a sharp increase (72%) in asylum applications from Eritrean nationals and a decrease in applications from Bangladesh (22%).The three countries producing the highest numbers of asylum applications were Eritrea, Iran and Iraq.
Also of note was a decrease in the number of applications from unaccompanied asylum seeking children which fell by 10%.
Shockingly, by end of September 2018, 11,538 asylum applicants had been waiting for longer than six months for an initial decision on the case. That is an increase of 8% from the 10,707 in the previous quarter. The total backlog in cases pending an initial decision totalled 24,213. Each one of these cases represents a person stuck living in limbo in the UK, anxiously awaiting news of their fate and being unable to properly move on with their lives.
That said, it was very encouraging to see the number of family reunion grants increase by 18% on last year with 6,007 grants made in the 12 months ending September 2018. Refugee family reunion is vital safe and regular route into the UK for families torn apart by conflict. Currently, the immigration rules surrounding refugee family reunion are far too restrictive, leaving refugee families already torn apart by war, kept part. This must change. Alongside many other charities and organisations as per of the #FamiliesTogether coalition, we are campaigning to change this.
Dr Lisa Doyle, Director of Advocacy at the Refugee Council, said: “The fact that the number of people claiming asylum in the UK has risen underlines the fact that while refugees are not always in the headlines, there are many people in desperate need of safety. These figures also show that people’s cases are taking far too long to be decided. Every time the Home Office fails to make a decision on an asylum claim, they are subjecting that person and their family to anxiety and fear, not knowing what will happen to them and not being able to rebuild their lives. It is high time this issue was addressed.
“On a much more positive note, it is very encouraging to see the number of family reunion grants increase by 18% on last year. Refugee family reunion is vital safe and regular route into the UK for families torn apart by conflict. Alongside other charities we are calling on the Government to do right by refugees and expand the criteria to enable more families, torn apart by war and conflict, be together in safety when they need each other most.”