Cleverly says asylum backlog vow met despite 4,500 cases awaiting first decision
The Home Secretary has insisted the Government has “done what we promised” to deal with a backlog of older cases in the asylum system, despite the latest official figures showing that more than 4,500 applications were yet to have even an initial decision taken on them.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak previously pledged to “abolish” a portion of outstanding older asylum applications by the end of 2023, tasking the Home Office with tackling the number of so-called “legacy” claims.
The department declared this week that the “commitment of clearing the legacy asylum backlog has been delivered” and Mr Sunak hailed the progress as being “the result of relentless action to tackle illegal migration over the past year”.
But figures published by the Home Office on Tuesday show that 4,537 legacy applications were still “awaiting an initial decision” as of December 28.
Asked why a press release issued on Monday said its target on legacy cases – those asylum applications made before June 28 2022 – had been met, James Cleverly insisted “it has”.
The Home Secretary told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the Prime Minister’s commitment had been to “make sure we process” the 92,000 legacy claims.
Mr Cleverly said: “Every single one of those applications has been processed.
“In the vast majority, a final adjudication has been made.
“In a small number – about 4,500 where there are discrepancies, where there are further checks, additional work needs to be done.”
Pressed on cases not being fully resolved, he added: “The commitment was to make sure they were all processed, to process that backlog, and that’s exactly what we’ve done, we’ve completed that processing.”
The Home Secretary said the Government had been “very, very clear in what we promised to do, we have done what we promised”.
The Home Office has said the 4,500 complex cases typically involve “asylum seekers presenting as children – where age verification is taking place; those with serious medical issues; or those with suspected past convictions, where checks may reveal criminality that would bar asylum”.
The non-legacy backlog of UK asylum cases awaiting an initial decision – covering applications made on or after June 28 2022 – stood at 94,062 on December 28, up 3% from 91,076 on November 30.
The overall backlog of applications awaiting a decision, including both legacy and non-legacy cases, is 98,599: down 10% from the end of November and down 29% from its recent peak of 139,552 at the end of February 2023.
Mr Cleverly said it is “impossible” to say how long it will take to get through outstanding asylum cases.
When asked how long it takes to get through 100,000 cases, he told Today: “The point is that it’s impossible to say and I’m not going to make predictions.”
The minister added: “You can see our track record of delivery, we have delivered over 112,000 processes, 112,000 applications this year. You know there are fewer than that left in the system.”
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