Number of pending UK asylum decisions reaches record high
The number of pending asylum decisions in the UK has reached an unprecedented 175,457 as of June 2023 — a 44 per cent increase from the 122,213 reported in June 2022.
The new figure from the Home Office surpasses the previous peak in 1999 during Tony Blair’s tenure as prime minister when 125,100 individuals awaited asylum verdicts. Despite governmental efforts to streamline the process, roughly 139,961 applicants, or 80 per cent, have been awaiting a decision for over six months. This represents a 57 per cent annual increase from the previous figure of 89,231.
Asylum applications for the year ending June 2023 also saw a significant uptick, reaching 78,768, a two-decade high. A significant proportion of these, 41 per cent, came from people journeying across the Channel in small boats, who then lodged their applications upon reaching UK shores.
Among these sea arrivals, approximately 90 per cent — or 40,836 individuals — either sought asylum or were noted as dependents of an applicant. The majority of these arrivals during the initial half of the year were Afghans escaping the Taliban, totalling 1,474, followed by Iranians and Indians, numbering 921 and 867 respectively.
The data also highlights an increase in work visas being issued. The provision of them rose by 63 per cent to 538,887 up to June 2023. The surge has largely been attributed to the healthcare sector, with visas for health and care workers experiencing a 157 per cent rise to 121,290.
Additionally, the UK saw an influx of international students, with numbers increasing by 34 per cent to 657,208 in the year ending June 2023. Indians constituted the majority of the student visa recipients at 142,848, marking a 54 per cent increase. Meanwhile, Chinese students received 107,670 of the sponsored study visas for the same period.
Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “The record high asylum backlog is having a devastating impact on the people we work with, whose lives are put on hold indefinitely while they anxiously wait to hear whether they will be allowed to stay in the UK.
“Taking further urgent action to reduce the backlog would not only improve people’s lives, but it would also make financial sense.”