Cost of asylum system nears £4bn as backlog hits new record high

The cost of the UK’s asylum system has almost doubled in a year and now stands at £3.97 billion as the backlog hit another record high.

Home Office spending on asylum rose by £1.85 billion in 2022/23, from £2.12 billion in 2021/22, yet a decade ago, in 2012/13, the total was just £500.2 million.

A raft of immigration statistics, published by the Government on Thursday, also show that 80% of asylum seekers are waiting longer than six months for an initial decision.

TalkTV’s Isabel Oakshott argued that it's too easy for asylum seekers to make it to the UK and stay once they are there.

She said: “The reality is that a lot of these people making these crossings are economic opportunists. And I have to say, I'm not sure we can blame them for giving it a go.

“They are assured a very nice reception here, they are well looked after for a very long period and statistically they have an incredibly high chance, however genuine or otherwise their claim may be, to have their case accepted.”

A total of 175,457 people were waiting for an initial decision on an asylum application in the UK at the end of June 2023, up 44% from 122,213 for the same period a year earlier – the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

Of these, 139,961 had been waiting longer than six months for an initial decision, up 57% year on year from 89,231 and another record high.

In an interview with TalkTV’s Mike Graham, Robert Oulds, director at The Bruges Group, argued that the Home Office is in a dire situation.

“The incompetence is manifest and manifold throughout the whole organisation of the home office.

“This has been the case for many, many years and we can think back to the time of John Reed, labour home secretary, who described the home office as not fit for purpose.

“David Blunkett also warned about the issues to do with the amount of migrants coming and how it can shatter community cohesion within the UK.”

The Home Office itself said the rise in the asylum backlog is “due to more cases entering the asylum system than receiving initial decisions”.

But the number of cases waiting to be dealt with increased by less than 1% in the three months to the end of June, suggesting the rise is slowing down.

This was “in part due to an increase in the number of initial decisions made, and an increase in the number of asylum decision-makers employed,” the department added.

Labour said the record-high asylum backlog amounted to a “disastrous record” for Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman, while campaigners called for claims to be processed more efficiently.