More than 40,000 people seeking asylum in the UK have waited between one and three years for a decision on their claim, figures reveal, as ministers prepare to announce a new deal with France to monitor migrants gathering to cross the Channel.
Figures from the Refugee Council also showed that a further 725 people – 155 of them children – have been waiting for more than five years for their claims to be evaluated by the Home Office.
It come as ministers are understood to be looking at larger and more basic sites including disused student accommodation and defunct or underperforming holiday parks to house asylum seekers awaiting a decision.
In the wake of the overcrowding crisis at the Manston processing centre in Kent, the government has negotiated a deal with the French government to slow down the number of arrivals to UK shores.
A deal to place more UK Border Force staff on French shores is expected on Monday. The agreement – in which the UK is expected to pay France at least £60m – will see a significant increase in the 200 gendarmes and volunteer officers deployed on beaches in northern France.
Government figures show that more than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Channel to the UK so far this year. On Saturday, 972 people were detected in 22 boats, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
Using freedom of information requests, the Refugee Council has established that the number of people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim rocketed to 122,206 in June – a fourfold increase in five years.
A third of them, 40,913, have been waiting between one and three years, the data shows. Nearly 10,000 people – 9,551 – had been waiting between three and five years.
The asylum backlog in December 2017 stood at 29,522.
The comparison over 10 years is even more extreme. In December 2012, the number of people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim was just 12,808.
The figures show that the number of people waiting in the asylum system has been growing exponentially in the last five years – challenging claims it is down to higher numbers crossing the channel in small boats this year.
The figures come a week after the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, said that slashing the backlog was a priority in order to reduce the £5.6m a day cost of housing 27,000 people in hotels – on top of a further 60,000 in other Home Office-funded accommodation.
He wants a significant increase in productivity – tripling the number of applications each case worker completes in a week.
Last month, Home Office officials admitted to MPs that only 4% of migrants who arrived in small boats in 2021 had received a decision.
Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “Immediate action should be taken to address the huge backlog of men, women and children stuck in limbo while waiting years for a decision on their asylum claim, costing millions of pounds a day accommodating them in often poor quality hotels.
“These people came to the UK in search of safety, but they are being condemned to years of worry and uncertainty, with a grave toll on their mental health, instead of being able to put down roots in their new community and rebuild their lives.
“There are clear steps this government could take immediately to address this situation.
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Source : TheGuardian