EXCLUSIVE: Home Office struggle to deliver Sunak's asylum backlog pledge

By Mark Conrad | 06 September 2023

Home Office officials are struggling to deliver Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to clear a huge backlog of legacy asylum cases this year, figures shared with councils have suggested.

The MJ has seen a confidential Home Office assessment of the Asylum & Protection Transformation Programme, sent to councils at the end of July, which indicates the department cleared just 17,000 of an estimated 90,000 legacy asylum claims in the first seven months of 2023.

In December, Mr Sunak pledged to clear the backlog of legacy cases – applications made before 28 June 2022 - by the end of this year.

Councils were viewed as key to helping deliver the Government’s target through the Full Dispersal programme and swift identification of spare accommodation.

A fast-track scheme allowing the Home Office to quickly process well-founded asylum claims from countries such as Afghanistan and Syria was also introduced.

But the Home Office still needed to clear 73,033 legacy cases by the start of last month.

The document provided councils with weekly estimates of cases the Home Office expects to clear to achieve its target – peaking at 5,079 cases earmarked for the first week of October.

To achieve its goal, the Home Office recently recruited more asylum decision-makers.

But council experts said they believed Whitehall will struggle to hit Number 10’s target.

One senior source said: ‘It currently looks hopeful rather than realistic.

'Councils continue to do what they can to assist and to identify suitable housing, but wider asylum policy has been poorly co-ordinated from the centre.’

Associate director for migration at the IPPR think-tank, Marley Morris, estimated the Home Office must speed up its decision-making ‘by a factor of three by the end of the year’ though he added this was ‘not impossible’.

A Home Office spokesperson said: ‘We are committed to clearing the backlog of legacy asylum cases by the end of the year and have already cut this by a nearly a third since the start of December.

'This is thanks to our work doubling the number of asylum decision-makers and streamlining processes.’

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