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Refugee Council: FOI request reveals backlog of asylum seekers waiting for initial decision reaches 122,206 with hundreds waiting over 5 years


Backlog has doubled within two years and increased tenfold in ten years

Date of Publication:
15 November 2022

The Refugee Council yesterday published new Home Office data on the asylum backlog obtained through a Freedom of Information (FOI) request.

Refugee Council logoThe data can be downloaded here in Excel format.

As highlighted by the Refugee Council, the data shows that that total number of asylum seekers waiting for an initial decision on their asylum claim stood at 122,206 at the end of June 2022. This figure includes main applicants, adult dependents and children. The backlog when only counting adult main applicants was 93,969.

The asylum backlog has doubled in a year and a half (from 64,891 at the end of December 2020) and has quadrupled in just five years (up from 29,522 in December 2017). Over ten years, the backlog has increased almost tenfold (it stood at 12,808 in December 2012).

Of those in the backlog at the end of June 2022, some 38,036 asylum seekers had been waiting between six months and a year, 40,913 between one and three years, 9,551 between three and five years, and 725 asylum seekers had been waiting for over five years. The Refugee Council said the latter statistic was shocking.

Enver Solomon, the Refugee Council's CEO, called for immediate action to address the huge backlog of men, women and children stuck in limbo while waiting years for a decision on their asylum claim. The Refugee Council said this should include the Home Office setting up a 'dedicated backlog clearance case resolution taskforce' and a target number of decision-makers that is maintained going forward and reviewed on a regular basis.

Last week, the Institute for Government published a helpful explainer here on the asylum backlog. It notes that among the reasons for the increasing backlog is a decrease in Home Office decision making: "Despite a 62% increase in caseworkers from 2011/12 to 2021/22, decision making rates have decreased by the same amount in this period. In 2021/22, there were 614 caseworkers who made an average of five asylum decisions per month per staff member, compared to 380 caseworkers with a productivity rate of 13.7 decisions in 2011/12."

As we reported on EIN last month, the Home Office now has over 1,000 decision-makers in post to tackle the asylum backlog. In addition, the Home Office announced earlier this month that an asylum casework pilot trialled by staff in Leeds has been rolled out nationwide to increase the number of decisions being made.

In the House of Commons yesterday, Home Secretary Suella Braverman was asked what steps the Home Office was taking to taking to tackle the backlog of asylum applications.

Braverman said in a brief response: "We are clear about the fact that the asylum system needs to do better and cases need to be processed more quickly. The aim of the asylum transformation programme is to bring the system back into balance and modernise it. Its focus is on increasing productivity by streamlining and digitising processes to speed up decision making and increase efficiency and output."