Asylum backlog of older cases down by nearly half since July

The overall number of applications has fallen from a record high earlier in the year.

Aine Fox
Wednesday 15 November 2023 12:21 GMT
The backlog of older cases in the UK asylum system fell by nearly half between July and October, new figures show (Alamy/PA)
The backlog of older cases in the UK asylum system fell by nearly half between July and October, new figures show (Alamy/PA)

The backlog of older cases in the UK asylum system fell by nearly half between July and October, new figures show.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to clear by the end of 2023 the backlog of so-called “legacy” cases, which refers to applications that have been waiting an initial decision since June 28 2022.

The legacy backlog stood at 33,253 as of October 29, down nearly a half (47%) from 62,157 on July 30, according to data published by the Home Office.

It is also down year-on-year by nearly two-thirds (65%), having stood at 93,987 in October 2022.

However, the non-legacy backlog of UK asylum cases – covering more recent applications, made on or after June 28 2022 – is continuing to rise, standing at 89,332 on October 29, up 20% from 74,622 on July 30.

The figures were unexpectedly released by the Home Office shortly before the Supreme Court ruled that the Government’s plans to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda were unlawful.

The data shows that the overall backlog of applications awaiting a decision, including both legacy and non-legacy cases, now stands at 122,585: down 10% from 136,779 on July 30 and down 12% from a record 138,782 at the end of February.

One asylum application does not always equal one individual, as an application can cover a group of people.

To meet the Prime Minister’s target of clearing the backlog of legacy cases, around 16,630 applications will need to be cleared per month before December 31.

Some 12,620 were cleared between September 24 and October 29, and 9,604 cleared between August 27 and September 24.

The total number of UK asylum caseworkers, based on headcount, stood at 2,529 at the end of October, up 42% from 1,775 at the end of July and more than double the figure a year earlier in October 2022, when it stood at 1,213.

The full-time equivalent number for the end of October this year is slightly lower, at 2,463, but this is also up 42% from July and more than double the total a year earlier.

Last month, a report from a cross-party committee of MPs warned that a “huge challenge” remains for the Home Office to clear the backlog in the asylum system and efforts to do so risk creating new backlogs in the courts.

Ministry of Defence site at Wethersfield in Essex" data-source="Home Office">

The new figures also show that 15,956 initial decisions were made on asylum applications in October, up from 12,702 in September.

This is more than five times the 2,932 decisions a year earlier.

The number of initial decisions made in October, together with the figure of 2,463 full-time equivalent caseworkers for the month, equates to an average of 6.5 decisions completed per caseworker.

This is up from an average of 5.2 in September and 2.5 in October 2022.

As of November 5 2023, a total of 520 asylum seekers were being accommodated across two locations, the Home Office said.

Some 448 people were at the former Ministry of Defence site at Wethersfield in Essex, while the Bibby Stockholm barge at Portland in Dorset contained 72 people.

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