Soaring asylum backlog deemed ‘disastrous record’ for Sunak and Braverman

The UK’s soaring asylum backlog amounts to a “disastrous record” for the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, Labour has said.

The Opposition accused Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman of overseeing “complete chaos” as Home Office data showed a record 175,000 people were waiting for an initial decision on an asylum application at the end of June.

The figure is up 44% from a year earlier and the highest since current records began in 2010.

Campaigners warned Government policy is “causing immense suffering to refugees who just want to get on with their lives” and called for claims to be processed more efficiently.

The data, which also shows 80% of people have been waiting longer than six months for an initial decision on their claim, piles further pressure on Mr Sunak, whose migration pledges have included a promise to cut the backlog.

TalkTV's Mike Graham said: "Not only have we got a Prime Minister who said he was going to stop the boats - and now has said we might not be able to - he also said he was going to put no more migrants in hotels."

Joining Mike, TalkTV's Richard Tice said "the reality is, he's not going to stop the boats. They are literally flooding across the English Channel."

Stephen Kinnock, Labour’s shadow immigration minister, said: “These new statistics set out in stark terms the complete chaos the Tories have created in the immigration and asylum system.

“With this level of mismanagement, there is very little prospect of reducing the eye-wateringly high bill for hotel rooms for all those left in limbo, currently costing the British taxpayer £6 million a day.”

Ministers are looking to house migrants on former military bases and a barge to reduce the expense of accommodating them in hotels.

Freedom from Torture’s associate director Natasha Tsangarides said: “This is a crisis of the Government’s own making. The huge backlog of asylum claims is the result of over a decade of policy failures, mismanagement, and systemic neglect that has left over 175,000 people – over a third more than last year – languishing in limbo and unsafe accommodation.

“Rather than pushing cruel and draconian measures aimed at punishing refugees, this Government must rebuild a fair and efficient asylum system and urgently expand safe routes to the UK.”

She also noted that Home Office statistics showing that just over seven in 10 of initial decisions in the year to June were grants of refugee status “disprove the Government’s toxic narrative” as they left “no doubt that most people reaching our shores are refugees – men, women, and children fleeing the most unimaginable horrors”.

The Institute for Public Policy Research also called the alarm bells over withdrawals, which made up 47% of all initial asylum decisions.

The Government’s Illegal Migration Act, central to Mr Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel, means asylum claims of people who come to the UK via unauthorised means will not be considered.

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Alistair Carmichael said it was “time for the Home Secretary to stop grandstanding and finally get serious” by “creating an immigration system that works for the UK and our economy, while treating everyone with dignity and respect”.

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister also faced pressure from inside his own party after the official figures showed nearly one-and-a-half million visas were granted to people coming to the UK for work, study or family reasons, or through one of the Government’s settlement schemes.

Right-wing Tory MP Jonathan Gullis urged Mr Sunak to “put forward urgent changes to dramatically reduce” legal immigration given the Conservatives’ manifesto pledge to bring overall numbers down.

“We must stop relying on the lever of migration, and focus more energy on skilling up the British people, whilst also getting business to do their part with increased wages, better terms and conditions, and investing in local workforces, to create the high-skilled, high-wage economy we all want,” he said.

Downing Street and the Home Office have been contacted for comment.