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Failed asylum seekers 'waiting a year' to be sent back home, Yvette Cooper reveals

26 January 2024, 09:53 | Updated: 26 January 2024, 10:02

Yvette Cooper has called for better enforcement and returns of failed asylum seekers
Yvette Cooper has called for better enforcement and returns of failed asylum seekers. Picture: Alamy
Natasha Clark

By Natasha Clark

Some failed asylum seekers are waiting up to a year before they can be sent back home, the shadow home secretary has told LBC.

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Yvette Cooper said that under Labour they would prioritise speeding up deportations of people who don't get their applications accepted.

She told LBC that things were "going badly wrong" and called on ministers to "get the basics right" with proper returns deals and better enforcement.

Ms Cooper said: "I've had cases come to me with people who've been through the asylum system, had their case turned down, who want to return to their home country and the Home Office has said to them, you've got a six-month wait, well, you've got a year-long wait.

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"I mean, you could not make it up."

The Home Office said that there were 5,000 asylum-related returns in 2023 – twice as many as the year before.

Nearly 30,000 people came to the UK in small boats in 2023 to try and claim asylum here.

Yvette Cooper has called for more action getting failed asylum seekers to return home
Yvette Cooper has called for more action getting failed asylum seekers to return home. Picture: Alamy

Returns of all kinds dropped off a cliff during Covid where just a few hundred people returned back to other countries – and they have struggled to recover in the years since.

Around 24,000 people in total – including foreign criminals – were removed altogether from the UK in 2023.

Prime minister Rishi Sunak claimed earlier this year to have eliminated the so-called "legacy backlog" of old claims which had been clogging up the system, leading to people staying in hotels for months on end and left in limbo.

Officials processed 112,000 claims last year after hiring more staff and speeding up decisions.

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But there were 4,500 cases where there was still no decision made, and which needed even more checks.

The PM was given a slap-down by the UK Statistics Authority for claiming the backlog had been "cleared".

Britain has been struggling to stop small boat crossings in the Channel
Britain has been struggling to stop small boat crossings in the Channel. Picture: Alamy

Sir Robert Chote, chair of the watchdog, said voters might have felt "misled".

The Home Office said that people could only be returned when it is safe to do so.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "Those with no right to be in the UK, including failed asylum seekers, should return home. We expect people to leave the country voluntarily but, where they do not, we will seek to enforce their departure.

"Last year we removed over 24,000 people with no right to remain in the UK and in the year ending September 2023, there were over 5,000 asylum related returns, twice as many as the year before."

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