Dismay at plan to fast-track 12,000 asylum applications - with 95% 'likely to be granted'

23 February 2023, 00:32 | Updated: 23 February 2023, 00:57

The government has been criticised for the scheme
The government has been criticised for the scheme. Picture: Getty

By Kit Heren

A government plan to slash waiting times for migrants' asylum claims has sparked anger at what some have called an "amnesty in all but name".

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Some 12,000 migrants from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen, who have applied for asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision, will be sent a questionnaire that could be used to decide their claims in a bid to cut the soaring backlog of cases.

The Home Office announced the plans in a bid to speed up processing applications for people from nations that typically have a high grant rate in the UK of more than 95%.

Official figures due to be published are expected to show there are more than 150,000 outstanding asylum cases. Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has promised to reduce the asylum backlog by the end of the year.

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Adult asylum seekrs and their child dependants will not be automatically interviewed under the scheme, but will instead be sent a 10-page, 40-question questionnaire to fill out, and asked to return it within an initial 20 working days before being offered an extension.

The scheme has been criticised by some activists as another "unwieldy" layer of bureaucracy for asylum seekers looking for safety.

Meanwhile one senior government source told the MailOnline that the scheme was "an asylum amnesty in all but name.

"One major issue here is that it will encourage people from these nationalities who are not yet in the UK to come here and attempt to get asylum," they added.

Migrants crossing the English Channel
Migrants crossing the English Channel. Picture: Getty

"It will also push up immigration figures because once these 12,000 have been granted refugee status they'll be able to bring relatives here through the family reunion scheme."

Caitlin Boswell, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: "People fleeing conflict and violence clearly need this Government to make quicker and fairer asylum decisions, but this latest move from Government is clumsy, unthinking and could put people's safety at risk.

"No-one's right to refuge should be jeopardised because they weren't able to fill in a long unwieldy form in a language they don't speak. This Government shouldn't be cutting corners when it comes to making life-changing decisions on people's futures."

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The Refugee Council's chief executive, Enver Solomon, said moves to reduce the backlog were "welcome but the answer is not yet more bureaucratic hurdles and threats of applications being withdrawn", adding the process should be "well thought-out".

"As it stands, the Prime Minister will fail to meet his commitment to clear the backlog by the end of this year and, if he is serious about it, there must be a more ambitious, workable, person-centred approach that sees the face behind the case.

"A priority should be accelerating the asylum claims of thousands of unaccompanied children and those of the 10,000 people who have been waiting for more than three years, as well as making quick positive decisions for those from countries like Sudan and Iran that also have very high grant rates.

"Without these steps, the record backlog is only going to continue to grow, at great human and financial cost," he said.

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Labour's shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: "It's damning that the Home Office isn't doing this already, given Labour has been calling for the fast-tracking of cases - including for safe countries like Albania - for months and the UNHCR recommended it two years ago.

"Meanwhile, the asylum backlog has skyrocketed - up by 50% since Rishi Sunak promised to clear it.

"After 13 years of Government, the Conservatives clearly have no idea how to fix the mess they have made of the asylum system."