The statistics watchdog is investigating claims by Rishi Sunak that the government has cleared the asylum backlog, The independent he understands
The Office for Statistics Regulation decided to investigate announcements by Mr Sunak and the Home Office on Tuesday that the government had reduced the number of pending asylum cases.
Mr Sunak's was accused of a “blatant lie” after figures revealed almost 100,000 migrants were still awaiting a decision.
The government had said it had fulfilled Mr Sunak's pledge to clear all so-called legacy asylum claims – calculated as those submitted before June 2022. However, official statistics confirmed that 4,500 of those cases were still due to be processed.
The Prime Minister then suggested on Tuesday that he had cleared the entire backlog, despite figures showing 98,599 claims were still languishing in the system.
He wrote on X, formerly of Twitter: “I said this government would clear the backlog of asylum decisions by the end of 2023. That's exactly what we've done.”
Labour's shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said the claims by Mr Sunack and her Tory counterpart James Cleverley were “simply not true”. Shadow immigration secretary Stephen Kinnock accused the prime minister of promoting a “blatant lie” that was “an insult to the public's intelligence”.
Mr Smart had said that “every single” legacy application had been processed, despite thousands remaining outstanding. He told the BBC the government had “committed to processing all these applications” without filling them. He added: “Our commitment was to process them and we have.”
He also admitted it would be “impossible” to say how long it would take to clear the backlog of asylum cases.
Care4Calais chief executive Steve Smith said the government was trying to “cook the books”, adding: “They decided to create a so-called ‘legacy pendulum' to set a political target and it has not been met.”
The figures show the government has also processed around 25,300 new asylum applications, on top of around 86,800 legacy cases, bringing the total number of decisions made last year to over 112,000, the highest number in two decades. Of these, 67 percent were granted asylum.
Government data released on Tuesday showed the backlog fell sharply in the final months of last year. There were 33,253 decisions left to be made in October, but this was down to 4,537 by 28 December.
35,000 “non-substantive” decisions were also made in 2023 – up from 13,093 in 2022 – which include applications that are withdrawn, canceled or put on hold and therefore removed from the official backlog.
The total asylum backlog now stands at 98,599. That's down from record levels in early 2023, when the backlog stood at nearly 140,000, but still historically high. In March 2020, the backlog stood at 40,000 and in 2013 the backlog was down to 9,500.
The Home Office also revealed that 348 hotels were still being used to house asylum seekers in December, a slight decrease from 398 in October.