Decisions on asylum applications are now taking substantially longer than they were five years ago, according to a new report published by the Migration Observatory at Oxford University. In 2014, eight out of 10 applicants received an initial decision within six months of applying whereas now it is just one in four.
As of the end of June this year there were almost 32,000 people in the UK who had applied for asylum and were waiting to hear the outcome and more than half had been waiting for more than six months.
Dr Liberty Vittert, UN Refugee Agency board member and data scientist, described waiting for an asylum decision as being akin to being in ‘purgatory’. Director of policy and research at the Children’s Society, Sam Royston said that the delays meant that ‘young people felt powerless and unable to influence the outcomes of a decision that will affect the rest of their lives. They are left in a state of limbo, unable to plan for their futures’.
The author of the report, Dr Peter Walsh has said that ‘there is no single explanation for the falling share of decisions taken in six months’. However, the decision from the Home Office in early 2019 to drop their ‘service standard’ target of trying to let asylum seekers know the outcome of their application within six months is one possible reason for the increased delay. The Home Office cited the need to prioritise more vulnerable individuals as the reason why they were dropping this target, although reports state that the target was being continuously missed and was becoming redundant.
Those waiting for a decision regarding their asylum application are able to access financial support of £5.39 per day but cannot access any further benefits. Dr Liberty Vittert has said of this policy ‘you can barely buy breakfast for £5.39 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’.
The report also highlighted the inconsistent distribution of asylum seekers throughout the country. The majority of asylum seekers are in the north of England and the areas with the least asylum seekers were the south east and the east of England. There are 150 councils around England that support no claimants at all compared to Glasgow City which supports 4,000. Some 20 councils in Scotland and the north of England support as many asylum seekers as the remaining 362 councils put together.