Cost of asylum system soars to £3.97bn as backlog hits new record high

More than 19,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel so far this year (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)
More than 19,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel so far this year (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

The cost of the UK’s asylum system almost doubled in a year and now stands at £3.97 billion as the backlog hit another record high.

Home Office spending on asylum rose by £1.85 billion in 2022/23, from £2.12 billion in 2021/22. A decade ago, in 2012/13, the total was £500.2 million.

A raft of immigration statistics, published by the Government on Thursday, also show that 80% of asylum seekers are waiting longer than six months for an initial decision.

It comes as Channel crossings topped 19,000 for the year so far, according to separate Home Office figures.

A total of 175,457 people were waiting for an initial decision on an asylum application in the UK at the end of June 2023, up 44% from 122,213 for the same period a year earlier – the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

Of these, 139,961 had been waiting longer than six months for an initial decision, up 57% year on year from 89,231 and another record high.

The Home Office said the rise in the asylum backlog is “due to more cases entering the asylum system than receiving initial decisions”.

But the number of cases waiting to be dealt with increased by less than 1% in the three months to the end of June, suggesting the rise is slowing down.

This was “in part due to an increase in the number of initial decisions made, and an increase in the number of asylum decision-makers employed,” the department added.

Labour said the record-high asylum backlog amounted to a “disastrous record” for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, while campaigners called for claims to be processed more efficiently.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “It is utterly disgraceful that new asylum laws are being introduced to actually prevent the processing of claims altogether, which will make this backlog, its cost and the limbo it imposes on people even worse.”

The Government was also accused of failing vulnerable Afghans after figures confirmed they were the most common nationality among Channel crossings in first six months of the year and more than 9,000 had applied for asylum in the same period – almost double the number for the previous 12 months.

Some 233 people were resettled in the UK in the year to June under the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme (ACRS) – one of two schemes set up in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

Meanwhile, 345 people crossed the Channel in six boats on Wednesday, at an average of 58 people per boat.

This takes the number recorded over three days so far this week to 1,217 and the overall total for 2023 to date to 19,174.