An investigation has found that asylum applications are taking “substantially longer” than they were five years ago.
According to the data recovered by the Migration Observatory, 80% of asylum applicants received a decision within six months in 2014, compared to around 25% this year.
The Oxford-based Governmental body also found that there is a very uneven distribution in terms of where asylum claims and appeals are being heard and processed. According to its findings, 150 councils failed to support a single asylum claim – with Southern counties, in particular, failing to support applications or house claimants. In contrast, cities like Glasgow – which processed and houses 4,000 of the asylum claimants this year – took on a disproportional amount of people.
As of 30th June this year, around 32,000 people seeking asylum were still awaiting the first decision on their cases, and just under 17,000 of these individuals have been waiting for six months or more.
80% of asylum applicants received a decision within six months in 2014, compared to around 25% this year.
Dr. Peter Walsk, who is a researcher at the Migration Observatory and author of the analysis, said: “There is no single explanation for the falling share of decisions taken in six months”.
“Factors that could have played a role include changes to policy and management,” he went on, “complexity of the cases the Home Office receives, and of course budget constraints.”
Once an asylum seeker has made a claim for refuge in the UK, they must wait for their claim to be heard and for a decision to be made. The length of time this takes varies from case to case and is very difficult to predict.
150 councils failed to support a single asylum claim…
While they wait, asylum seekers are allowed accommodation, although they cannot choose where this is, and a small amount of support. This amounts to £37.75 per week. During this time, they are not allowed to work in most jobs (they can work in highly-skilled, shortage roles like engineers or doctors, but only after 12 months of awaiting the results of their claim).
Asylum seekers can be detained at any time – a decision that lays at the mercy of the Home Office. There is no limit to the amount of time a person can be detained (the UK is the only country in the EU that imposes indefinite detention), and they do not have to pose any sort of danger to public life or flight risk for detention to be imposed.
Dr. Liberty Vittert, a UN Refugee Agency board Member likened the experience of an asylum-seeker awaiting their claim to “purgatory”.
“That is the word I use when talking about asylum seekers awaiting a decision,” she told the BBC.
“The financial support of £5.35 per day, you can barely buy breakfast for £5.35, and people say ‘well, they can cook’, but cook where? You are at the mercy of a country where you don’t speak the language and don’t know the culture.”
Asylum seekers do not have to pose any sort of danger to public life or flight risk for detention to be imposed.
This sentiment is shared by many other human rights campaigners and refugee charities.
Sam Royston, the director of policy and research at The Children’s Society, described the asylum waiting period in a very similar light.
“They are in a state of limbo”, he said, “unable to plan for their futures”.