Revealed: asylum seekers’ 20-year wait for Home Office ruling

17 August 2018: Guardian: Revealed: asylum seekers’ 20-year wait for Home Office ruling

Charities say making people wait two decades in abject poverty is ‘utterly barbaric’

The Home Office has left some people waiting more than 20 years for decisions on their asylum claims, according to data obtained exclusively by the Guardian, in delays charities say are unacceptable and “utterly barbaric”.

Seventeen people received decisions from the Home Office last year on claims they had submitted more than 15 years ago, four of whom had waited more than 20 years for a decision. The worst case was a delay of 26 years and one month after the person initially applied for asylum.

The data, obtained under freedom of information rules, refers to the time the Home Office takes to make an initial decision on an asylum claim. It does not include any extra time taken for an appeal or fresh claim.

Asylum seekers are not allowed to work while they wait for a decision on their claim. They are provided with an allowance of £37.75 a week. There are reports of people forgoing meals in order to afford phone bills so they can communicate with their families in their home countries, being forced to travel everywhere on foot, including to meetings with solicitors and to charities, or going without winter clothing.

The Home Office provides accommodation, most often a room in a shared house with other asylum seekers, but lodgings have routinely been criticised for being of poor quality, having infestations of rats, mould and bedbugs and being located in the poorest parts of towns and cities. In a damning report last year, Yvette Cooper, the chair of the home affairs select committee, said asylum seekers’ housing conditions weredisgraceful.‘It’s a shambles’: data shows most asylum seekers put in poorest parts of BritainRead more

“Forcing some people to wait more than 15 years for a decision on their asylum claim while banned from work and living below the poverty line is utterly barbaric,” said Stephen Hale, the chief executive of Refugee Action.

Of the decisions the Home Office made in 2017, 18,189 or 75% were taken within six months of application, 2,832 took between six months and a year, 3,059 between one and three years, and 243 between three and five years.

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