Asylum backlog reaches a record high, including over 3,000 Afghans - Refugee Council
August 26, 2021

Asylum backlog reaches a record high, including over 3,000 Afghans

Today the government issued its quarterly immigration stats for the year-ending June 2021. These statistics include the official stats for asylum applications, decisions, asylum support and resettlement. You can see a summary of the findings we have picked out as most interesting here.

Several areas are of deep concern to us. The backlog of people waiting for an initial decision now stands at a staggering 70,905 of whom over 3,000 are Afghans.  76% (54,040) of which have been waiting more than 6 months. Each of these cases represents a person anxiously awaiting news of their fate, with no idea how much longer they will be forced to wait, living hand to mouth and in temporary accommodation. This is an area we have long campaigned for the Government to address and conducted research into earlier this year.

Despite media headlines aiming to conjure up an image of the opposite, the number of people who come to the UK to claim asylum is relatively low. The number of asylum applications for the year end June 2021 was 31,115 (main applicants only) – 4% fewer than the previous year.

Detention is in deeply inhumane, degrading, brutal practice which should play no part in the asylum system. Evidence shows clearly that detention only adds to the trauma people placed there are already experiencing. That close to 500 Afghans have been detained in the past year – and that detention figures have more than tripled since this time last year – is hugely concerning.

Earlier this year the Government took the wholly unnecessary, unprecedented step of introducing ‘inadmissibility’ rules which would deem all asylum applications by those who have passed through a third safe country before entering the UK, inadmissible. This draconian, cruel policy flies in the face of international law which states that one’s journey into the country where they claim asylum should not impact on their asylum case. Not only this, such a policy guarantees that applicants are forced to endure even longer delays on their case.

Of the 4,561 people facing a delay of up to 6 months to find out whether their case will be deemed inadmissible, only 7 were found to be inadmissible and no one has been returned. This shows us that such a policy is meaningless and in all but a tiny exception of cases, completely unenforceable.

Attention has been drawn to resettlement as a vital form of refugee protection recently with the Government’s announcement to create a resettlement scheme for 20,000 refugees from Afghanistan, a positive first step in the right direction to support the many people affected by this tragic conflict.

However, resettlement only supports a fraction of those in need. Just 1% of the world’s refugees will ever be resettled anywhere, which means many refugees face a long, uncertain wait to hear if they will ever be able to rebuild their lives in safety.

There were 661 people granted protection through resettlement schemes in the year ending June 2021. This is 81% fewer than in the previous year, due to resettlement activity being paused between March and November 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:

“Several areas of today’s immigration statistics ring alarm bells. That the number of people still waiting for news of their fate has soared to more than 70,000, of whom over 3,000 are Afghans fleeing the Taliban, lays bare the fact that we have an asylum system that is not working effectively. It is cruel and unfair to leave people living in desperate limbo, not knowing what their future holds.

It is simply tragic and shameful to learn that the numbers of people being forced to endure the inhumane and degrading experience of detention has more than tripled and that this includes hundreds of Afghans. It’s also clear that the Government’s inadmissibility rules are clearly not working and are simply adding further delay, cost and human misery to the asylum system”