UK facing £6bn-a-year ‘perma-backlog’ of asylum seekers under Home Office plans

Captain says migrants are escorted by French patrol boats to UK waters

Record numbers of people fleeing conflict and persecution are turning to the UK for sanctuary.

In the year to March, 173,000 asylum seekers were awaiting an initial decision from the Home Office.

While they wait, the Government has a duty to house them, at significant and growing cost. Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) accounts show £3.7billion was spent on their living costs last year.

This was already a 350 percent increase on 2021, but a new report by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) warns this bill could grow to £5billion within five years.

According to the London-based think tank, the Illegal Migration Act — the cornerstone of Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s tenure and a key element of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s promise to “stop the boats” — will, in fact, result in a “perma-backlog” of thousands of new asylum seekers in indefinite limbo.

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Marley Morris, associate director for migration, trade and communities at IPPR, said: “There is only a very narrow window for government success on asylum, based on its current plan to forge ahead with the Rwanda deal and the Illegal Migration Act.

“Even with the Act fully implemented, under most plausible scenarios arrivals will still outpace removals.”

The IPPR says this will result in a “steadily escalating number of people who cannot be compelled to leave the UK, but who have no path to securing permission to stay and are permanently blocked from working.”

Migrants arriving by irregular routes who claim asylum will be denied any prospect of a hearing. As most cannot be returned home under international or UK law, those who are not deported to a third country will essentially be trapped at the taxpayer’s expense.

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Back in June, the National Audit Office (NAO) – the Government’s spending watchdog – warned plans to reform the asylum system were off track amid spiralling spending.

This year’s daily record of small boat crossings was smashed earlier this month, when 755 people made the journey on August 10. The five-year total is now above 100,000.

Even if the Rwanda deportation scheme is deemed lawful and a high rate of removals of 500 illegal arrivals was achieved each month, the IPPR says housing costs will soar.

If just 50 are sent to third countries a month, it forecasts an annual bill of £6billion in five years.

Ms Morris said: “This will mean a growing population of people permanently in limbo, putting huge pressure on Home Office accommodation and support systems – plus a risk of thousands of people who vanish from the official system and are at risk of exploitation and destitution.”

Knowing there is no prospect of a legal path to residency in the UK, ever more arrivals are, according to the IPPR, expected to join the UK’s undocumented subpopulation.

Ms Morris added: “Any incoming Government would be likely to face a dire and increasingly costly challenge which it would need to address urgently from the outset – there will be no option to ignore or sideline the crisis it inherits.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Illegal Migration Act will help to clear the asylum backlog by allowing us to detain and swiftly remove those who arrive here illegally. While we operationalise the measures in the Act, we continue to remove those with no right to be here through existing powers.

“We are also on track to clear the ‘legacy’ backlog of asylum cases. It has been reduced by a nearly a third since the start of December and we have doubled the number of asylum decision makers in post over the past two years.”

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