The Home Office appears to be taking substantially longer to make decisions on asylum applications, much longer than five years ago.
In 2014 80% of applicants received an initial decision within six months compared to around 25% now. There also appears to be an uneven distribution of claimants with 150 councils failing to support any, while Glasgow has 4,000.
The Home Office say they are committed to claims being considered without unnecessary delay and this year dropped its six-month targets in order to prioritise cases involving vulnerable people and those where initial decisions are re-considered.
The Migration Observatory based at the University of Oxford, says that in the last quarter of 2018 an initial decision was made within six months in 25% of cases, but in the second quarter of 2014, that figure was 80%. By 30th June this year just under 32,000 people seeking asylum were waiting for an initial decision on their case, 17,000 of these had been waiting for more than six months. There does not appear to be any single explanation as to why people are kept waiting for more than six months apart from factors such as changes to policy and management, the complexity of some cases and of course budget constraints.
It is considered better for a decision to take longer if it is the right one, bearing in mind the Home Office’s poor record on getting initial decisions right. Between 2012 and 2016 40% of asylum refusals that went to appeal were overturned. There is a strong belief in the department’s argument that it is better to prioritise cases involving the most vulnerable refugees. However, as delays get worse the uncertainty and stress levels increase among the UK’s most marginalised and traumatised groups of people.
When someone seeks asylum the government say that if they wish to stay in the UK as a refugee they must be unable to go back to their country because of a fear of persecution. They should apply for asylum when they arrive in the UK or as soon as they realize it would be unsafe to return to their own country.
After a person has made an application they will be invited for a ‘screening’. a meeting with an immigration officer and asked why they want asylum. They will then be interviewed and asked to explain and show evidence of how they were persecuted in their home country, and asked why they are afraid to go back. While an asylum seekers case is pending they are unable to work or have access to benefits, but are eligible to receive financial support of £5.39 per day. If and when their claim is approved they are then able to work and access benefits. If a claim is denied an appeal can then be made against the decision, which could take a number of years before a final decision is reached.
A recent analysis found that 55% of cases were eventually successful with 38% being granted at the initial decision and a further 17% granted after appeal. The majority of people seeking asylum in 2018 were from Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Pakistan and Albania, and most of these were found to be living in the northeast of the UK. Up to the end of June this year it was found that Glasgow had the most asylum seekers, with the south-east of England housing the fewest. Data suggest that in the year to June 2019 more than 150 parts of the UK did not house a single asylum seeker, whereas Glasgow took in more than 4,000. 20 local authorities, mainly in Scotland and the north of England have as many claimants as the remaining 362 council areas combined. Many of these authorities have supported resettled refugees, but the distribution of asylum seekers around the UK is pretty unequal.
It is felt that the wait between making an asylum application and an initial decision is akin to ‘purgatory’. The long waiting times for claims to be decided could be hugely detrimental for young asylum seekers as they feel powerless and unable to influence any outcome of a decision which will affect the rest of their lives, and they are unable to plan for their future.