Migration Observatory: asylum backlog now nine times higher than it was a decade ago
Despite concerns over Channel crossings, UK sees a fall in asylum claims in year ending June 2021, but asylum backlog is up sharply
26 August 2021
New immigration statistics published by the Home Office today show that the overall number of asylum claims in the UK fell in the year ending June 2021 compared to the previous year, despite high-profile media reporting and Government concerns over the numbers making small boat crossings of the English Channel.
The Home Office said: "There were 31,115 asylum applications (relating to 37,235 people) in the UK in the year ending June 2021, 4% fewer than the previous year. There were 2,756 applications from Unaccompanied asylum seeking children (UASC), 15% fewer than the previous year."
The Home Office added that the decrease in applications is likely linked in part to the global travel restrictions implemented in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, which have impacted migrants' movements globally and arrivals into the UK.
Asylum applications fell sharply in the second quarter of 2020 and despite a subsequent increase, they remain below the levels seen prior to the pandemic.
Providing a recent comparison to other European countries, the Home Office noted today: "In the year ending March 2021, Germany received the highest number of asylum applicants (129,985) in the EU+, followed by France (86,340). When compared with the EU+ member states for the year ending March 2021, the UK received the 4th largest number of applicants (33,046). This equates to 7% of the total asylum applicants across the EU+ and UK combined over that period, or the 17th largest intake when measured per head of population."
The Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford highlighted that today's statistics also show there has been a sharp increase in the backlog of people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum application.
According to the Migration Observatory, 70,905 people were waiting for an initial decision at the end of June 2021, an increase of 73% over the past two years despite a decline in the number of asylum claims.
Dr Peter William Walsh, a researcher at the Migration Observatory, said: "The scale of the asylum backlog does not reflect numbers of people applying, because asylum applications have slightly decreased. Some of the recent increases in the backlog took place during the pandemic, but actually this is a much longer-term trend. A key driver is that the share of people receiving a decision within six months has fallen dramatically over the past decade."
Marley Morris of the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) said on Twitter: "Shocking to see how bad things have got with the asylum system. Number of applications processed within 6 months has fallen dramatically over past few years - from over 80% in 2014 to under 20% now."
According to the Refugee Council, 76% of those waiting for an initial decision have been waiting for more than 6 months.
The Refugee Council said the backlog laid bare the fact that the asylum system is not working effectively. Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said it was cruel and unfair to leave people living in desperate limbo, not knowing what their future holds.
For a historic comparison, the Migration Observatory noted that the asylum backlog is now nine times higher than it was a decade ago at the end of June 2011.
Today's immigration statistics also show the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on general immigration.
The Home Office noted: "There were an estimated 19.6 million passenger arrivals in the year ending June 2021 (including returning UK residents), an 81% (83.6 million) decrease compared with the previous year … There were 830,969 visas granted in the year ending June 2021, 61% fewer than the previous year as a result of the global pandemic."
While the number of work-related visas that were granted increased in the year ending June 2021 compared to the previous year (up 19%), they were 7% down on pre-pandemic levels in the year ending June 2019.