UK Asylum Claim Backlog Reaches Record High
According to Getty Images, the number of people waiting for a decision on an asylum claim in the UK has reached a record high of 175,000, which is a 44% increase since June 2022. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has identified reducing the backlog and preventing the influx of boats as top priorities.
Small Boat Crossings to the UK
In 2022, small boat arrivals accounted for around 45% of asylum applications made in the UK. A total of 45,755 migrants crossed the Channel that year, marking the highest number since data collection began in 2018. Since then, over 100,000 people have made the crossing.
Comparison with EU Small Boat Arrivals
The number of small boat arrivals in the UK increased by 13% compared to the same period last year, reaching the highest total from January to July since 2016. Most arrivals in the EU occur via the Mediterranean, with Italy receiving the largest number. The peak year for EU migrants was 2015, with over a million people fleeing the conflict in Syria.
Asylum Seekers in the UK
During the first half of 2023, more than 36,000 people claimed asylum in the UK. In 2022, the total number of asylum requests exceeded 89,000, with the highest annual figure (including dependants) of approximately 103,000 occurring in 2002 due to conflicts in Afghanistan, Somalia, and Iraq. The number of claims decreased significantly, hitting a 20-year low of 22,600 in 2010.
Origin of Asylum Seekers
In the first half of 2023, the largest number of asylum seekers came from Afghanistan (3,366), followed by Iran (just over 3,200 applications), India, Bangladesh, and Pakistan. Ukrainian refugees who arrived in the UK after Russia’s invasion of their country are not included in these figures.
Backlog of Asylum Cases
As of June 2023, the majority (80%) of individuals in the backlog have been waiting for more than six months for an initial decision on their claims. While their applications are being processed, asylum seekers are not permitted to work, but they can apply for jobs on the UK shortage occupation list after 12 months. Many of them are accommodated in hotels, amounting to an estimated cost of £6 million per day.
Number of Individuals Returned by the UK
The Home Office has the authority to remove individuals with no legal right to stay in the UK. In the year leading up to March 2023, a total of 3,354 people who had previously claimed asylum in the UK were returned, representing a 68% increase from the previous year. The rise is partially attributed to an increase in returns of individuals from Albania. Notably, 46% of the enforced returns concerned EU nationals, with Albanians and Romanians accounting for 25% and 18% respectively of all enforced returns.
Asylum Applications in France and Other Countries
In 2022, the UK ranked fifth in Europe in terms of asylum applications, behind Germany, France, Spain, and Austria. France had the second highest number of applications (137,510), followed by Spain (116,135) and Austria (106,380). The UK authorities made initial decisions on 18,699 asylum applications in 2022, granting 14,211 of them (76%). Germany made 197,540 asylum decisions, with over 50% resulting in approval, while France made 129,735 decisions and also exceeded a 50% approval rate.
Asylum Seekers vs. Migrants
An asylum seeker is someone who has sought protection in another country due to persecution or the fear of persecution. If their application is successful, they are granted permission to remain in the country where they sought refuge. However, if their application is denied, they may be removed. A migrant, on the other hand, refers to someone who has left their country of origin but has not applied for asylum. Some migrants relocate for work or educational purposes. An illegal migrant is either someone who entered the UK without a visa or permission or someone who entered legally but overstayed their visa.