New Home Office figures unveiled the startling reality that the number of asylum applications in the UK has surged to its highest point in the last two decades.
The year concluding in June 2023 saw a staggering total of 78,768 applications, involving 97,390 individuals – marking a substantial 19% increase from the prior year.
Among these applications, Albania emerged as the most frequent origin, contributing 11,790 asylum requests.
Remarkably, 7,557 of these applications originated from migrants arriving by boat across the English Channel.
Afghans held the second position, lodging 9,964 applications – a figure nearly double that of the preceding 12 months (5,154).
With this year’s tally revealing over 19,000 migrants reaching the UK after traversing the Channel, including 345 on a single day recently, immigration statistics have further disclosed a distressing milestone: the backlog of unresolved asylum cases has reached an all-time high.
The end of June 2023 witnessed a staggering 175,457 individuals awaiting initial asylum application decisions – a 44% rise from the 122,213 recorded in June 2022.
This figure constitutes the highest number since records commenced in 2010.
The predicament of asylum seekers awaiting decisions exceeding six months reached a new zenith at 139,961 by the end of June, marking a 57% annual escalation from 89,231, a clear reflection of a higher influx of cases into the asylum system compared to the pace of resolution.
However, the most recent three-month interval leading to the end of June suggests a marginal increase of less than 1% in pending cases, hinting at a potential slowdown in the growth rate.
This attenuation has been attributed partly to a greater number of initial decisions rendered and an uptick in the hiring of asylum decision makers.
A notable trend in the data is the considerable rise in the proportion of positive initial decisions regarding asylum applications.
For the year concluding in June 2023, over 70% (71%) of these decisions conferred refugee status, humanitarian protection, or other forms of leave.
This proportion significantly surpasses the rates of pre-pandemic years, where only about a third of initial decisions resulted in such grants.
This recent trend contrasts starkly with the statistics of 2019, and before that, 1990, when the grant rates stood at lower levels.
The surge in asylum-related expenses has accompanied the increase in applications.
The Home Office’s expenditure on asylum in the UK in the fiscal year 2022/23 reached £3.97 billion, nearly doubling the £2.12 billion of the previous fiscal year (2021/22), and marking a substantial ascent from the £500.2 million a decade ago in 2012/13.
A notable report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has raised alarms over the potential trajectory of these costs.
The IPPR forecasts that without a significant acceleration in case resolution and deportations, the expenditure on accommodating illegal immigrants could surge to over £6 billion per year within half a decade.
The immigration statistics for this period also disclose a noteworthy 45% increase in the number of work visas, amounting to 321,101.
This boost is primarily attributed to the upsurge in “Skilled Worker” visas, particularly in healthcare and social care domains, which are grappling with severe worker shortages.
Amidst this situation, a former head of the Border Force, Tony Smith, has drawn attention to the tactics used by cross-Channel migrants.
According to Smith, migrants often resist rescue until they are within British waters, as they know that once on a British vessel, they can claim asylum.
This phenomenon, coupled with the French authorities’ approach to interpreting international law, contributes to the ongoing Channel crisis.
Smith has suggested the necessity of a new agreement with France or the EU to conduct joint patrols that would return migrants to Calais, thus potentially alleviating the pressure on the UK asylum system.