Backlogs of asylum cases have almost halved since July

The backlog of past cases in the UK's asylum system almost halved between July and October, new figures show.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to clear by the end of 2023 the backlog of so-called “legacy” cases, which refer to applications awaiting an initial decision from June 28, 2022.

The backlog stood at 33,253 on October 29, down by almost half (47%) from 62,157 on July 30, according to figures released by the Home Office.

It is also down year-on-year by nearly two-thirds (65%), having stood at 93,987 in October 2022.

However, the non-inheritance backlog of asylum cases in the UK – covering more recent applications, made on or after 28 June 2022 – continues to rise, reaching 89,332 on 29 October, up 20% from 74,622 on 30 July.

The figures were unexpectedly published by the Home Office shortly before the High Court ruled that the government's plans to deport asylum seekers in Rwanda were illegal.

The data shows that the total backlog of applications awaiting decision, including both legacy and non-legacy cases, now stands at 122,585: down 10% from 136,779 on July 30 and down 12% from a record 138,782 at the end of February.

An asylum application does not always equate to one person, as one application can cover a group of people.

To meet the prime minister's target of clearing the backlog, around 16,630 applications will have to be cleared every month before December 31.

About 12,620 were cleared between September 24 and October 29 and 9,604 were cleared between August 27 and September 24.

The total number of asylum officers in the UK, based on the number of people, stood at 2,529 at the end of October, up 42% from 1,775 at the end of July and more than double the figure a year earlier in October 2022, when it stood at 1,213.

The full-time equivalent figure for the end of October this year is slightly lower at 2,463, but is also up 42% from July and more than double the total for the previous year.

Last month, a report by a cross-party committee of MPs warned that it remained a “huge challenge” for the Home Office to clear up backlogs in the asylum system, and attempts to do so risked creating new backlogs in the courts.

Ministry of Defense website at Wethersfield in Essex” data-source=”Home Office”>

The new figures also show that 15,956 initial decisions were made on asylum applications in October, up from 12,702 in September.

That's more than five times the 2,932 decisions a year earlier.

The number of initial decisions made in October, along with the number of 2,463 full-time equivalent cases for the month, equates to an average of 6.5 decisions completed per employee.

This is higher than the average of 5.2 in September and 2.5 in October 2022.

As of 5 November 2023, a total of 520 asylum seekers were being accommodated in two locations, the Home Office said.

Around 448 people were on board the former Ministry of Defense site at Wethersfield in Essex, while the barge Bibby Stockholm in Portland in Dorset contained 72 people.