Author- Frey Lindsay
Around three quarters of asylum seekers in the U.K. waited more than six months to hear an initial decision on their case in 2018, according to a recent research briefing from Oxford University’s Migration Observatory. Over half of those 37,453 asylum seekers in 2018, however, ultimately saw their asylum approved.
Such long waiting times are not common for the U.K. As recently as the second quarter of 2014, for instance, over 80% of asylum claims were settled within six months, compared to 25% at the end of 2018. Some of the reasons for this holdup suggested by the author of the Migration Observatory briefing, Dr. Peter Walsh, include policy changes, budget constraints and the increasing complexity of the cases presented.
In 2014 the U.K. Home Office, responsible for immigration in all forms, set itself an ambitious target of processing nearly all asylum applications within half a year. After steady criticism that it was failing to meet that target, however, the Home Office scrapped it earlier in the year, saying instead it would “concentrate on cases with acute vulnerability and those in receipt of the greatest level of support, including unaccompanied asylum-seeking children.”
While half a year might already sound like a long time to wait on an asylum claim, Dr. Peter Walsh pointed out that even after six months, it’s not necessarily over: “This of course is just the first stage of the asylum process, and after you factor in appeals, the whole process can take years for many applicants.”
And indeed this new research shows the appeals process can be vital to asylum applicants, with around a third of ultimately successful asylum seekers being approved after appealing an initial decision to deny. This suggests the same issues with policy, budget and claims processing that result in longer waiting times also can lead to incorrect initial decisions, which could mean people being denied asylum when they really ought to get it.