What will the Government's new plan for clearing the backlog mean for people seeking asylum? - Refugee Council
February 23, 2023

What will the Government’s new plan for clearing the backlog mean for people seeking asylum?

Moves to reduce the backlog in asylum cases are welcome, but the Government’s new announcements are not the answer.

Quickly granting refugee status to people from countries with high grant rates should be a positive first step but the process must be well thought-out. After living in worry and uncertainty for months and even years without hearing anything about their claims, it cannot then be fair or reasonable to expect people to complete a lengthy form only in English in a matter of weeks, especially for those who don’t have access to legal advice and don’t speak English.

What has happened?

The Government has announced a new plan that aims to reduce the asylum backlog by sending a questionnaire to around 12,000 people who are from 5 countries with high acceptance rates (Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen). This questionnaire contains complex questions and is written in English, which many of those who are required to provide answers will not be able to understand without assistance.

Recipients will be given just 20 days to complete this form – also giving their responses in English – or risk their entire asylum claim being withdrawn without further investigation.

With new figures today revealing that over 160,000 people were still waiting for an outcome on their initial claim for asylum at the end of December 2022, it is clear that action is needed to reduce this backlog. However, the answer is not yet more bureaucratic hurdles and threats of applications being withdrawn.

Imagine you are an Afghan, who arrived in 2021 after the fall of Kabul...

You have been waiting for nearly 18 months for a decision and haven’t heard from the Home Office for months about your case. Then you get a letter and application form that you don't understand. Legal aid has been dramatically cut so you don't have a lawyer and you also don't speak much English. What are you supposed to do? The risk is you will not be able to complete the form, and your application will be withdrawn, meaning you will lose all financial support and accommodation. You would then have no choice but to disappear off the radar into the dangers of the illegal underworld.

As it stands, the Prime Minister will fail to meet his commitment to clear the backlog by the end of this year and 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. Without these steps, the record backlog is only going to continue to grow, at great human and financial cost.