The Guardian reported on Friday that data it obtained under the Freedom of Information Act revealed that some asylum seekers had to wait more than 20 years for an initial decision on their asylum claim.
According to The Guardian, the data it obtained showed the time taken by the Home Office to make an initial decision on an asylum claim. It covered decisions made by the Home Office in 2017.
The data showed that 18,189 or 75% of decisions were made within six months of application, 2,832 took between six months and a year, 3,059 took between one and three years, 243 between three and five years, and 40 took more than five years.
Of the claims that took five or more years, 17 took more than 15 years ago and four of those took 20 years or more.
The Guardian says that the worst case was a delay of 26 years and one month.
Labour’s Keir Starmer said on Twitter that such a delay was “completely unacceptable” and the Government should either make speedy decisions or let asylum seekers work. “To do neither is a denial of human dignity,” Starmer said.
Stephen Hale of Refugee Action told the Guardian that making people wait 15 years or more for a decision on their asylum claim while not allowing them to work was “utterly barbaric” and caused asylum seekers “immense damage”.
Hale was quoted as saying: “We spoke to refugees forced to wait years for a decision on their asylum claim. Many were being treated for anxiety and depression, as they struggle to survive on little over £5 a day for prolonged periods of uncertainty. Prevented from working or studying, they feel hopeless, isolated and excluded.”
The Guardian also spoke to Maurice Wren, the chief executive of the Refugee Council. Wren said the delay was “totally unacceptable”.
Wren told the Guardian: “This is not a temporary admin problem, but the predictable outcome of a system that all too often gives little or no thought to the human consequences of its actions. People’s lives are put on hold, forcing them to live in limbo and uncertainty.”
A Home Office spokesman told the Guardian that some asylum claims raise complex issues that cannot be decided within the standard target of six months.
“Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute are provided with free, fully furnished accommodation. We also cover utility costs and provide a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs,” the spokesperson added.