Asylum spending quadrupled over past decade to hit £2.1bn as Labour says system 'completely broken'

1 June 2023, 01:44 | Updated: 1 June 2023, 02:41

Public spending on the asylum has quadrupled to hit £2.1billion since the Conservatives came to power, Home Office figures show, as Rishi Sunak prepares meet with European leaders to discuss the migrant crisis.
Public spending on the asylum has quadrupled to hit £2.1billion since the Conservatives came to power, Home Office figures show, as Rishi Sunak prepares meet with European leaders to discuss the migrant crisis. Picture: Alamy

By Chris Samuel

The amount of taxpayer cash spent on the UK asylum system has quadrupled since the Conservatives came to power, Home Office figures show, as Rishi Sunak prepares to meet with European leaders to discuss the migrant crisis.

The figures, unearthed by Labour, show a fourfold increase from the first financial year of the Conservative-led coalition government in 2010, when £567,856,116 was spent processing asylum claims and on accommodation, with costs rising to £2,115,584,829 by 2021/22.

The party blamed the spike in spending from £1.4billion in 2020/21 to £2.1billion in 2021/22 on the rising backlog, slower asylum decisions and Home Secretary Suella Braverman's "last minute decision-making" over the use of hotels.

The financial burden of the asylum system on tax payers is expected to rise further when the 2022/23 figures are published, with recent estimates showing an extra £2.4billion from the overseas budget was used to support the asylum system in the 2020 calendar year, in addition to normal costs, Labour said.

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Labour's Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said the Tory government had left the asylum system "completely broken and British taxpayers are paying the price".

“After 13 years, the Tories have broken the asylum system and these figures prove it," she said.

"Nothing the government is doing is working, and their legislation is making the situation worse with more people stuck in the system than ever before.”

Yvette Cooper accused the Conservatives of breaking the asylum system
Yvette Cooper accused the Conservatives of breaking the asylum system. Picture: Alamy

She added: "Labour has set out serious plans for a cross-border police unit, fast-tracking to clear the backlog and a proper deal with Europe on safe returns."

A Tory spokesperson responded: "Labour's approach to asylum was a disastrous open-door policy coupled with massive amnesties.

"Given the chance they'd do it all over again. Labour are against deporting foreign criminals. Labour are against deporting illegal migrants. Labour are against stopping the boats.

"Only the Conservatives have a plan to tackle illegal migration as we deliver on our five priorities: halving inflation, growing the economy, reducing debt, cutting waiting lists and stopping the boats."

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Labour also claims that in the past year, just 1 percent of small boat asylum cases have had a decision made and that the productivity rate of Home Office caseworkers had dropped from 14 decisions per month in 2011 and 18 in 2016, to just five per month in the last financial year.

It comes after the UN's refugee agency highlighted significant failings in the UK's asylum system, which included torture victims being detained and laws not being "complied with".

Rishi Sunak will meet with other European leaders on Thursday and stress the need for cooperation in tackling illegal migration.
Rishi Sunak will meet with other European leaders on Thursday and stress the need for cooperation in tackling illegal migration. Picture: Alamy

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees noted in the scathing report "numerous risks to the welfare of asylum seekers" following an investigation between 2021 and 2022.

But the Home Office insists "significant improvements" have been made since the investigation was carried out.

The latest figures from the department revealed that the backlog of asylum cases in the UK had risen to a record high of 172,758 at the end of March, despite promises from the Government to being it down.

The asylum spending figures obtained by Labour were released ahead of Rishi Sunak's meeting with other European leaders at the European Political Community summit on Thursday, where he is expected to urge leaders to make stopping illegal immigration a top priority.

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He is also set to announce the start of a new returns agreement with Moldova, and that a similar agreement with Georgia has come into force.

"Europe is facing unprecedented threats at our borders," he is set to say, "From (Russian President Vladimir) Putin's utter contempt of other countries' sovereignty to the rise in organised immigration crime across our continent.

"We cannot address these problems without Europe's governments and institutions working closely together. In every meeting, every summit, every international gathering like this, the security of our borders must be top of the agenda.

"The UK will be at the heart of this international effort to stop the boats and defend our national security."

A deal on intelligence sharing with Bulgaria, aimed at cracking down on people smuggling-gangs, will also be announced.

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