Next government must seize opportunity to rescue and reform “dysfunctional and chaotic” asylum system, warns charity - Refugee Council
June 28, 2024

Next government must seize opportunity to rescue and reform “dysfunctional and chaotic” asylum system, warns charity

  • Almost all the men, women and children who crossed the Channel in a small boat in the last year (96%) have not had a decision on their asylum claim. Overall, nearly 120,000 people are still waiting for an initial decision.
  • Over 27,000 appeals are waiting to be heard – almost quadruple the 2023 figures
  • Nearly 36,000 are being accommodated in hotels
  • Under the Illegal Migration Act, tens of thousands stranded in permanent limbo, unable to claim asylum
  • 40,300 people expected to have made dangerous journeys across the Channel by the end of the year with very few safe routes in place

With just under a week to go before the General Election, the Refugee Council reveals today the chaos and cost within the asylum system that the next Government will face. The charity outlines urgent steps that it should take from day one to fix the broken system.

The new report, Asylum: Day one challenges for the next government, highlights:

  • Backlog: Despite the Government’s attempts to reduce the asylum backlog in 2023, close to 120,000 people are still waiting for an initial decision on their asylum application. A quarter of these claims are more than a year old, with two thirds having been in the system for at least six months.
  • Channel crossings: In the last year, 99 per cent of people who crossed the Channel in a small boat went on to apply for asylum. Almost all of them (96 per cent) are still waiting for a decision on their claim. The months following the General Election are highly likely to see an increase in Channel crossings. If the distribution of arrivals throughout 2024 reflects 2022 and 2023, then around 40,300 people might be expected to have made the crossing by the end of the year.
  • Refugees from high grant countries stuck: Thousands of people waiting for their asylum claims to be heard are from countries with high grant rates, including close to 40,000 people from Afghanistan, Iran, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan – countries where violent civil war, oppression and persecution threaten lives constantly.
  • Permanent limbo: The charity warns that the Illegal Migration Act 2023 is already slowing down decisions, and if fully enacted would lead to the asylum system being completely shut down. This would leave tens of thousands of men, women and children permanently shut out from the system but unable to be removed from the UK. By the end of the year, there could be more than 115,000 people stranded in that situation.
  • Appeals backlog: The report warns that the next government will face a large and growing backlog of asylum appeals. Efforts to reduce the asylum backlog have led to an increase in decisions on asylum claims, and in turn a high number of appeals against refusals. As a result, the backlog in asylum appeals almost quadrupled from 7,500 at the end of March 2023 to over 27,000 a year later.
  • Hotels: At the end of March, 35,686 people who had applied for asylum in the UK were being accommodated in hotels. Over half (19,550) of those being housed in hotels were from countries with initial asylum decision grant rates of at least 80 per cent, with a daily cost of around £2.9million.
  • Safe routes: The report also outlines the dangerous implications of the lack of safe routes for refugees to reach the UK, with very few routes in place and severe delays and restrictions affecting those that do exist. Resettlement levels are almost five times smaller than before the pandemic, and the backlog in family reunion cases stands at more than 11,000 cases.


Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:

“The next government must seize the opportunity to rescue and reform our asylum system, which is dysfunctional and chaotic after years of political stunts and empty rhetoric.

“With tens of thousands shut out of the asylum system, stranded in permanent limbo, a system meltdown is rapidly unfolding.

“Every day we see the impact of the mess on the lives of the men, women and children we support, with their mental health and wellbeing deteriorating. Separated families, desperate to be reunited, find nothing but long waits and broken promises. Refugees from countries such as Afghanistan, Syria and Sudan have no choice but to take terrifying journeys across the Channel to come to the UK because of a lack of safe routes.   

“The next government must restore the right to asylum in the UK and rebuild a system based on British values of compassion, fairness and respect.”


The report makes a series of recommendations for the next Government:

  1. Reform the asylum legal framework and improve the decision making process by:
    • Bringing forward legislation to repeal the Illegal Migration Act 2023 and restore the right to asylum.
    • Publish guidance to make it clear that leave can continue to be granted to refugees arriving irregularly after March 2023.
    • Use learning from the Streamlined Asylum Process to make quick grants to applicants from high grant countries.
    • Process all asylum applications that had been paused from the cohort of people targeted for removal to Rwanda.
  1. Reduce the backlog of asylum appeals:
  • Create a Home Office team to review and correct appealed and flawed asylum refusals without people needing to go to the courts.
  • Increase the capacity of the first-tier tribunal by recruiting more judges and ensure that appellants have legal representation.
  1. Expand safe routes:
  • Develop a safe routes strategy, including a commitment to return resettlement to pre-COVID levels at a minimum.
  • Ensure family reunion applications are decided within 12 weeks by the end of 2024.
  • Improve refugee family reunion by allowing child refugees to sponsor close family members to join them.


Download the report: Asylum: Day one challenges for the next government