Backlog swamps asylum system

Number of unresolved cases has jumped to 8,700, National Audit Office says

Britain's asylum system is "struggling to cope" with a backlog of cases which doubled last year, the National Audit Office has warned in a highly critical report. It said the number of the UK Border Agency's unresolved cases jumped from 4,200 to 8,700.

More than one in 10 asylum refusals was still based on decision letters by officials that were "poor or not fully effective", the NAO said, adding that the UK Border Agency needed to be "sharper" despite efforts to streamline the system introduced two years ago. Auditors said the number of failed applications still exceeded the number of people being deported by 20 per cent and warned that only a quarter of people refused asylum last year were sent back to their home country. The NAO said officials did not have a way of tracking refugees so their status can be reviewed when their permission to remain in Britain expires after five years.

The report said the Government was not resolving cases fast enough to meet its target of clearing a backlog of 335,000 "legacy" asylum files by 2011.

Border Agency officials claim they are clearing old cases at the rate of 10,000 a month and are on course to meet the target, but the NAO said the Border Agency had been dealing with just 4,000 a month.

Chris Grayling, the shadow Home Secretary, denounced the system as a "shambles". He added: "This report is a shocking indictment of... our immigration and asylum system. Far from making inroads, the problem of backlogs is steadily getting worse.

"This will not only place more burdens on the UK taxpayer at a time of economic crisis, it is also an inhumane way to treat asylum applicants."

Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman, remarked: "This is appalling news for the thousands of people who are awaiting a decision and whose experience of the UK Border Agency is Kafkaesque.

"Month after month goes by with cases in limbo and people in destitution because they are unable to work. In the name of humanity, ministers must fix this broken system."

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "We have first- hand experience of the problems with the current system, from case owners not being present all the way through the process, through to people not being able to access legal advice before their main interview. Apart from the fact that for many people this is a matter of life and death, if decisions are wrong because of a lack of legal representation people will be in the system for longer, something no one wants."

Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, said: "We are strengthening our checks on decision making, recruiting more staff and committed to conclude 90 per cent of new asylum cases within six months by 2011."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive or Senior Sales Executive - B2B Exhibitions

£18000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Executive or Senior Sal...

Recruitment Genius: Head of Support Services

£40000 - £55000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Warehouse Team Leader

£22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leading company produces h...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Manager / Sales - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT provider for the educat...

Day In a Page

A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory