UK: ‘Reckless’ new plan on immigration sees major decline in processing asylum claims

27 May 2021: Amnesty International: UK: ‘Reckless’ new plan on immigration sees major decline in processing asylum claims

Quarterly immigration statistics published by Home Office today: Long outstanding asylum claims 50% higher than a year ago

‘The Home Office’s new asylum rules are reckless and impractical’ – Steve Valdez-Symonds

New statistics published today by the Home Office show that immigration rules introduced by the Home Secretary last December have led to more than 1,500 people who have sought asylum in the UK being warned the Home Office is looking to send them to other countries. Although there are no agreements in place for those countries to accept responsibility for their asylum claims. To date, none of these people have been removed from the UK.

Reacting to the new quarterly statistics – which provide official information on the UK’s immigration system, including people coming to the UK, applying for asylum, and being detained or removed – Amnesty International said the new rules were “reckless and impractical”.

The new rules introduced at the start of the year are integral to the Government’s “plan”, announced in March, which seeks to largely dismantle the UK’s existing asylum system, including by refusing to consider many claims on the basis that people will be sent instead to other countries to have their claims dealt with by those countries. However, as many experts and critics have predicted, it is unlikely that other countries will be willing to receive from the UK people seeking asylum here.

Today’s data shows that so far nobody refused admission to the UK’s asylum system under the new rules has been accepted by a third country. Ultimately, if someone is not accepted by another country, the UK will have to consider the person’s asylum claim. As experts have warned, these new rules risk doing no more than adding to Home Office delays and backlogs.

Key findings from the quarterly statistics, which show a significant decline in the UK providing protection to people seeking asylum, are as follows: 

  • The UK granted leave to remain for 8,640 people (including dependants) in the year ending March 2021
  • This figure is around half (42%) of the number in the year ending March 2020, and the lowest level since 2012
  • In the year ending March 2021, there were 12,968 initial decisions made on asylum applications, and just under half (48%) of these were grants of asylum and humanitarian protection
  • Twelve months ago, the figure of asylum claims awaiting an initial decision after more than 6 months was 31,516. It has now reached 50,084, indicating major delays within the system

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Refugee and Migrant Rights Director at Amnesty International UK, said:

“The Home Office’s new asylum rules are reckless and impractical – and are not in keeping with the spirit and purpose of international refugee law.

“As predicted, today’s data shows that so far nobody refused admission to the UK’s asylum system under the new rules has been accepted by any other country.

“With these rules, the Home Secretary has merely introduced more uncertainty and delay which causes immense anxiety to people seeking asylum while adding to the mountain of existing backlogs.

“We don’t need these oppressive new laws and rules – we need the Home Secretary to focus on making the UK asylum system more accessible, reducing not adding to delays and improving the quality of decision-making so women, men and child refugees receive the protection of this country to which they are entitled.”

Refugee Council: New Plan for Immigration – consultation response
May 2021

As key members of the Refugee and Migrant Children’s Consortium and the Families Together Coalition, we would like to endorse the responses submitted by both.
We have a number of significant concerns about the consultation process.

Firstly, we are concerned that six weeks is not long enough for expert stakeholders to participate meaningfully, particularly given the extensive scope of the policy paper. HMG’s Code of Practice on Consultation states that “Consultations should normally last for at least 12 weeks with consideration given to longer timescales where feasible and sensible”.

Furthermore, the short consultation period included the Easter break and coincided with the period leading up to elections at local and regional government levels and devolved administrations in Wales and Scotland. This will have severely impeded the ability of officials and members in those areas of government to fully respond to the proposals.
Secondly, we are concerned that the government has not made enough effort to understand the views of people who have received protection in the UK through the asylum system or resettlement programmes, which would have given an insight into how the reforms would be likely to impact upon refugees, including on their safety and wellbeing. The short timescale mitigates against people who may need help to understand the proposals, particularly when English is not their first language. The requirement to create an online account in order to submit answers is a barrier to many, including those
who may be fearful of their responses being linked to and affecting their asylum claim.
The policy paper is lacking in detail about many of the significant changes proposed and uses data and research selectively.

Finally, we have engaged in many of the ‘deep dive’ engagement events; many of these failed to elicit any clarification of the proposals whereas at some we learnt the detail making the proposal much easier to understand. This is not a fair way to consult on such a huge area of policy