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Asylum claims hit near 20-year high as backlog of cases soars

There were 55,146 asylum applications in the UK in the year to March.

26 May 2022

The number of asylum claims made in the UK has climbed to its highest in nearly two decades, while the backlog of cases waiting to be determined continues to soar.

There were 55,146 asylum applications in the UK in the year to March 2022 – the highest number for any 12-month period since the year to September 2003, when the total stood at 61,343.

The number of applications from lone migrant children is also at its highest level for any 12-month period since records began in 2006. Some 4,081 applications from unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) were made in the year to March 2022.

The increase in applications was “likely linked in part to the easing of global travel restrictions that were in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and to a sharp increase in small boat arrivals to the UK”, the Home Office report said.

At the end of March 2022, there were 109,735 people awaiting an initial decision on their case, 66% higher than the previous year when 66,185 people were waiting.

This is more than double the number in March 2020 when the coronavirus pandemic began (51,906) and is a new all-time high since current records began in June 2010.

POLITICS Immigration Asylum
(PA Graphics)

The figures come as the Home Office announced it was setting up an action group to look at how to speed up the processing of asylum claims in a bid to increase the number of decisions made on cases on a weekly basis.

A total of 15,451 people were granted protection in the year to March 2022, up 79% on the previous year (8,635) but below the 20,295 in 2019.

Three-quarters (75%) of all initial decisions in the year ending March 2022 were grants, which is “substantially higher than previous years”, and the highest rate in more than 30 years, since 82% in 1990, according to the Home Office.

POLITICS Immigration
(PA Graphics)

Meanwhile, 2,761 people were deported from the UK in 2021 – 62% fewer than in 2019 before the pandemic. The vast majority of enforced returns were for foreign criminals, most of which were EU nationals.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the department had “helped thousands of people through our generous safe and legal routes including those fleeing Putin’s war in Ukraine, refugees from Afghanistan and our BN(O) Hong Kong route.

“And as we bring the Nationality and Borders Act into practice, we are working urgently to speed up processing of claims, including via a new asylum action group.”

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