Without conducting in-person interviews, about 12,000 asylum applicants in the UK will be given consideration for refugee status.
The Home Office will decide the cases of applicants from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria, and Yemen who submitted applications prior to last July based on a 10-page questionnaire. The action tries to lessen the backlog in asylum claims, which Prime Minister Rishi Sunak promised to eliminate this year.
According to the Home Office, the method would be simplified for five nationalities, but it is not an amnesty for those seeking refuge. According to the Home Office, applicants from these nations have already had 95% of their asylum requests granted.
There won’t be any face-to-face interviews, but the standard security and criminal checks and biometrics will still be done, according to officials. Instead, those who qualify for asylum must complete a form and respond to up to 40 questions. The Home Office may consider the asylum claim withdrawn if the questionnaire is not completed in English and returned within 20 working days.
Officials say a follow-up notification will be sent if there is no response, and each application will be evaluated on its own merits. The 20-day limit could have “devastating” effects on people who require protection, may not understand English, and are probably traumatised by fleeing persecution and war, the British Red Cross warned.
Backlog For Asylum
The Home Office is likely to face criticism that the fast-tracking has more to do with the prime minister’s goal to reduce the asylum backlog than having strict checks for identifying people with no right to be in the UK because it has previously emphasised the significance of in-person interviews.
An Afghan asylum seeker who killed a young guy in front of a Bournemouth takeaway was given a life sentence last month. Before moving to the UK, Lawangeen Abdulrahimzai was discovered to have been wanted for a murder conviction in Serbia. All participants in the new process, according to the Home Office, would have their criminal histories verified and undergo security vetting. Almost 166,000 persons are currently on the backlog of asylum seekers in the UK who are awaiting a judgement on their application.
According to data released on Thursday, there were about 75,000 asylum requests in the UK in 2022, which was a 19-year high. A ruling on their case has been awaited by about 110,000 people for more than six months. The majority in more than 30 years, more than 75% of asylum rulings granted in 2022 were favourable to awarding asylum.
Yet, Downing Street’s resolve to clear the backlog in asylum claims looks to entail making it easier for tens of thousands of migrants—some of whom will have come in small boats—to obtain visas to remain in the UK. Suella Braverman, the home secretary, may find the policy upsetting since she likes to think of herself as being strict with people who want refuge after travelling in an unlawful manner.
In small boats, a record 45,756 migrants successfully arrived in the UK last year. In a Wednesday interview with GB News, Ms. Braverman stated: “It’s clear that we have an untenable situation in towns and cities all over our country where we are now housing them in hotels because of the overwhelming number of people arriving here illegally and our legal duties to accommodate them.”
In order to deal with the record number of people waiting for a decision on their application for asylum in the UK, the Home Office plans to double the number of asylum caseworkers this year. The British Red Cross and the Refugee Council have already pushed the government to establish an expedited procedure for applicants from nations with high acceptance rates. They proposed including 40,000 cases from Iran, Afghanistan, Eritrea, Syria, and Sudan in this group last year. The Home Office’s expedited procedure does not apply to Sudanese or Iranian asylum seekers because of the slightly lower, but still high, grant percentages for those two nations.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer stated that the refugee system was “broken” on BBC Breakfast. Many of the immigrants coming to the UK, according to Sir Keir, are being brought there by “criminal gangs that are earning money out of human misery,” and Labour will create a specialised section inside the National Crime Agency to address the problem. “It’s disgraceful that the Home Office isn’t doing this already, considering that Labour has been advocating for the fast-tracking of applications – including for safe countries like Albania – for months and the UNHCR recommended it two years ago,” said Yvette Cooper, a shadow home secretary.
Meanwhile, since Rishi Sunak vowed to reduce the backlog, it has increased by 50%. She added that a Labour administration would establish return agreements to ensure the secure return of unsuccessful asylum seekers and would take tougher action against the gangs behind perilous small boat crossings.
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