The government has published immigration statistics for the year ending September 2022. These provide figures for asylum applications, decisions, asylum support and resettlement. We’ve summarised some of the most interesting ones relating to asylum and protection here.
These figures show that the backlog in asylum cases has continued to rise, with a staggering 143,377 people now awaiting an initial decision on their asylum application, an increase of over 20,000 people since the end of June. This is also an increase of 180% since the end of 2019. Of these, nearly 98,000 people (68%) have been waiting over six months. These people are stuck in limbo for months and years on end, unable to work or put down roots in their community, with no sense of when they might receive a decision on their case from the Home Office.
The statistics also show that the strong majority of claims are granted, with 77% of initial decisions made in the year ending September 2022 resulting in a grant of asylum or humanitarian protection. Each claim is assessed on individual merit and goes through extensive scrutiny. This clearly shows that people are coming to the UK in desperate need of safety, having fled conflict, violence and persecution, and that the Home Office recognises this by granting them protection and the right to stay in the UK as refugees.
We can also see that the number of people able to come to the UK via resettlement or family reunion routes has remained extremely low. In the year ending September 2022, only 1,391 people were granted protection through resettlement schemes and only 4,786 family reunion visas were issued to partners and children of those granted asylum or humanitarian protection in the UK.
When safe routes such as resettlement and family reunion aren’t available, people turn to dangerous journeys – which is why we’re seeing the number of people crossing the Channel in small boats continuing to rise, with 33,029 people detected arriving by small boats between January and September this year. This was almost double the number in the same nine months in 2021 (17,084). The journeys are also getting more dangerous, with an average of 40 people per small boat in the first nine months of 2022, up from an average of 28 people per small boat in 2021.
November 24th also marks one year since the devastating news that 32 people lost their lives crossing the Channel. Sadly, the fact that so many people lost their lives on a harrowing journey to Britain in search of safety did not act as a wake-up call to Government, as evidenced by today’s figures. The Refugee Council is urging the Government to commit to an expansion of safe routes for men, women and children who are simply in desperate need of protection – otherwise they will witness more lives lost at sea on their watch.
There continues to be a rise in asylum applications, with 85,902 people claiming asylum in the year ending September 2022 – more than double the number in 2019. This is unsurprising and the inevitable consequence of a global refugee crisis that is seeing millions of people fleeing their homes due to war, discrimination and persecution. The top five countries of origin of people seeking asylum were Albania, Iran, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, countries that people are forced to flee due to war, conflict, human rights abuses and criminal and sexual exploitation.
There has been much talk about the increase in the numbers of Albanians seeking asylum in the UK, with Albania producing the highest number of asylum applicants (35%). We know directly from extensive work with Albanian refugees that many have been trafficked and are victims of criminal and sexual exploitation. Just because a country is not at war, does not mean that it is safe for all that live there. The fact that over half of Albanians who claim asylum here are given refugee protection speaks volumes for the clear dangers these people are facing.
Responding to today’s figures, Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:
“These statistics underline yet again the government’s neglect and mismanagement of the asylum system due to a failure to invest in creating an orderly, efficient and effective system.
“The number of men, women and children now living in limbo has risen by 20,000 in just three months, meaning 143,000 are now waiting for an initial decision on their case with just under 98,000 waiting more than six months.
“Given the number of asylum applications which are agreed is at its highest level for 32 years – reflecting the global refugee crisis with millions of people fleeing their homes because of war, conflict and persecution – these new Home Office statistics underline why urgent action from government is so important.
“Ministers must set up a dedicated and well-resourced task force to improve the processing of asylum claims, both to reduce the human misery caused by the long delay for a decision but also the spiralling costs of accommodating those on the waiting list, which has reached more than £2bn a year.
“We at the Refugee Council stand ready to work with ministers and others to address this crisis: without further steps to build on those taken so far by the Home Secretary, this issue will continue to seriously harm the asylum system into 2023.”
Commenting on the lack of safe routes to the UK for people seeking safety, he added:
“On the anniversary of the tragic deaths of 32 people in the Channel, these figures remind us that there are no safe alternatives to dangerous journeys for thousands of desperate people fleeing war, violence or persecution. We remain heartbroken for the friends and families affected directly by last year’s tragic event. The reality is that unless this Government fundamentally changes its approach to one that is effective and compassionate, dangerous crossings will continue to happen and we are likely to see more tragedies like this.”