Fewer than 1% of asylum seekers Home Office wants to deport to EU actually deported after Brexit

Priti Patel’s plans to remove claimants not working as asylum backlog hits record levels at more than 100,000

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 24 February 2022 10:11 GMT
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A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers following a small boat incident in the Channel last month
A group of people thought to be migrants are brought in to Dover, Kent, by Border Force officers following a small boat incident in the Channel last month (PA )

Fewer than 1 per cent of asylum seekers the Home Office tried to deport to the EU were actually deported last year, new figures show, prompting warnings that the current system is “harmful and ineffective”.

Official data also revealed that the number of asylum seekers in the UK awaiting an initial decision on their claim has hit a record high of more than 100,000.

In 2021, the Home Office identified 9,622 asylum claimants for consideration on “inadmissibility grounds” – meaning they attempted to send them back to EU countries they travelled through. More than 8,500 of these subsequently had their asylum claims put on hold.

However, figures published on Thursday reveal that only 11 of these were actually returned to the continent.

Home secretary Priti Patel has said she intends to replace the Dublin regulation, which previously allowed her department to return asylum seekers to EU member states while Britain was part of the bloc, with “bilateral returns arrangements”.

But The Independent understands that no such agreements have been struck.

The new government data also shows that at the end of 2021, a record number of people – 100,564 – had an initial asylum claim pending. This marks a 55 per cent increase on the previous year and a 241 per cent rise since 2017.

Last year also saw the highest number of asylum claims in Britain in nearly 20 years, at 48,540. The last time this was exceeded was in 2003 when 49,407 claims were lodged.

Meanwhile, the number of people who have been brought to the UK under resettlement schemes after fleeing persecution has dropped by 254 per cent in the last two years, from 5,612 in 2019 to 1,587 last year.

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said the data on inadmissibility showed that the inadmissibility rules were “pointless, harmful and completely ineffective”.

He added: “We urge the government to spend more time on improving decision making on cases on UK soil, and less on threatening to send people away while their claims are being processed.”

Tim Naor Hilton, chief executive at Refugee Action, said the figures were a “damning indictment” of the government’s “total mismanagement” of the asylum system.

“Snowballing waiting times are devastating for refugees, who are unable get on with their lives while they are stuck for years in a punitive asylum system,” he added.

“This is why it’s essential that next week Peers in the House of Lords back an amendment to the government’s Anti-Refugee Bill that will give people seeking asylum the right to work.”

The Home Office data reveals that 28,526 people were detected arriving on small boats in 2021, compared with 8,466 in 2020, 1,843 in 2019 and 299 in 2018. The vast majority of these people claim asylum.

Almost three quarters (72 per cent) of the initial asylum decisions in 2021 were grants of protection - marking the highest grant rate in over thirty years, the data shows.

Marley Morris, associate director at the IPPR think tank, said that with the humanitarian crisis continuing to unfold in Afghanistan and Russia invading Ukraine this week, the UK had a “duty to expand its efforts to welcome refugees fleeing war and persecution”, which he said meant it was “critical” that the asylum system is “fit for purpose”.

He said the Home Office’s Nationality and Borders Bill, which is currently going through the House of Lords and vows to “fix the broken asylum system”, would fail to meet its aims and instead “lead to further delays to an already struggling system”.

Immigration minister Kevin Foster said: “The UK’s asylum system is broken and has been unreformed for over two decades. This government is fixing our country’s approach to illegal entry to the UK and asylum by making the tough decisions to end the overt exploitation of our laws and UK taxpayers.

“We know there is no simple solution to this problem but our New Plan for Immigration will deliver the fair but firm system the British people have repeatedly voted for.”

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