Security Minister agrees Home Office losing 17,000 asylum seekers is an 'absolute shambles'

30 November 2023, 08:45

Security Minister grilled after 17,000 asylum seekers found to be 'missing'

EJ Ward

By EJ Ward

Security Minister agrees the loss of 17,000 asylum seekers is an 'absolute shambles' and that the Home Office under new leadership must identify where individuals have gone missing.

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Speaking to LBC's Nick Ferrari at Breakfast, Security Minister Tom Tugendhat said the Home Office was working to locate the missing asylum seekers.

Nick branded it an "absolute shambles" asking the minister "what's going to be done about it?"

"You're absolutely right, it is incredibly important we identify where individuals are and we grip it," Mr Tugendhat said.

He said the new Home Secretary James Cleverly would be working to"get to the bottom of what's gone on."

The Minister's comments come after the Home Office admitted it does not know the location of over 17,000 asylum seekers whose claims were withdrawn this year, more than quadruple last year's number.

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Home Office figures published on Thursday showed 17,316 asylum applications were withdrawn in the year to September.

This is more than four times the number for the previous year when there were 4,260, the department said.

Officials faced questioning from the Commons Home Affairs Committee amid efforts to meet Prime Minister Rishi Sunak's target of clearing older asylum cases by year's end.

Permanent secretary Sir Matthew Rycroft confirmed the steep rise in withdrawn cases but was unable to explain reasons why.

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Pressed by MP Tim Loughton about the status of those 17,000+ individuals, interim second-in-command Simon Ridley replied, "I don't think we know where all those people are, no."

The admission astonished committee members given the priority the Prime Minister has placed on tackling the backlog, which remains over 120,000 cases.

By missing key data on withdrawals, officials appeared unprepared for parliamentary scrutiny, said committee chair Dame Diana Johnson.

Despite installing new resources and touting increased productivity, the Home Office must evaluate over 16,000 cases per month to hit Sunak's target.

With less than a month remaining, only around 13,000 cases were cleared in late September/October. Officials maintain confidence but committee members found the testimony unconvincing and alarming.