Thousands of asylum seekers will have their applications processed fast under new plans from the Home Office aimed at tackling a staggering backlog of cases.
Around 12,000 people from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen, who have applied for asylum in the UK and are awaiting a decision, are considered eligible under the policy.
Under the new process, which is due to start on Thursday, arrivals in the country will be sent 10-page questionnaires instead of being automatically interviewed.
The forms will ask asylum seekers about 40 questions, not all of which may apply to them, and they will be asked to return them within an initial 20 working days before being offered an extension.
The status applies to adult applicants and their dependent children, but not to unaccompanied immigrants under the age of 18.
Applicants could be called for an interview, and anyone who does not provide the required information and evidence may have their claim rejected.
Officials stressed the move was not akin to a so-called asylum amnesty and said thorough security checks would continue to be carried out.
The new plan aims to reduce the asylum backlog by the end of a year, reflecting Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s commitment.
Figures to be released are expected to show there are more than 150,000 pending asylum cases.
It also comes at a time of intense scrutiny of the immigration system.
A violent riot broke out in Knowsley, Merseyside, earlier this month outside the Suites Hotel where a number of asylum seekers were being housed.
During the two years, there was also criticism of conditions at sites such as Manston and Napier Barracks in Kent.
Meanwhile, Mr Sunak has pledged to stop small boats crossing the Channel, one of the central pillars of his government.
Commenting on the latest plans from the Home Office, Caitlin Boswell from the Joint Council for Migrant Welfare said: “People fleeing conflict and violence clearly need this Government to make faster and fairer asylum decisions, but this latest move by the government is clumsy, unthinkable. and could endanger people’s safety.
“No one’s right to asylum should be jeopardized because they could not complete a long cumbersome form in a language they do not speak.”
Refugee Council chief executive Enver Solomon said moves to reduce delays were “welcome, but the answer is not yet more bureaucratic hurdles and threats to withdraw applications”, adding that the process must be “well studied”.
Labour’s shadow home secretary, Yvette Cooper, said: “It is damning that the Home Office is not already doing this, given that Labor has been calling for fast-tracking of cases – including safe countries such as Albania – for months and the High UNHCR recommended it. two years ago.
“Meanwhile, the asylum backlog has soared – by 50% since Rishi Sunak promised to clear it.”
According to the latest Home Office figures available, in the year to September 2022, there were 143,377 pending asylum applications.
Of these, 97,717 waited for more than six months.
The numbers are expected to continue to rise, with the latest official figures due on Thursday.
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