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Asylum Application Backlog

Volume 743: debated on Monday 15 January 2024

Last year we cleared the equivalent of 90,000 legacy claims and processed a total of more than 112,000 claims—the largest volume in two decades. The total asylum backlog is now at its lowest point since December 2022. The improvement of processes continues, and we will continue to review and improve them to accelerate the decision making from hereon in.

I am grateful to the Home Secretary for that update, but there are still four hotels in and around Warrington housing asylum seekers. Will he give us an update on the closing of hotels, and will he also tell us what steps he is taking to speed up the processing of refugees when they are in hotels awaiting the outcome of their claims?

My hon. Friend made an important link between the speed of asylum processing and the need for asylum accommodation in various forms, including hotels. We are moving away from using hotels as that type of accommodation, thus reducing the cost to the public purse, and we will maintain recruitment levels and improve processes so that the speed of processing that we are seeing now can be continued. Although I cannot make commitments about the specific hotels in my hon. Friend’s constituency, he should rest assured that we are seeking to drive down the number of hotels on which we rely.

My constituent arrived in the UK 15 months ago and was interviewed, but has been waiting for more than a year to receive a final response. He is not alone: according to the Refugee Council, 33,085 asylum cases have been lodged in the last six months alone, putting ever more strain on a broken system. The Home Secretary said that the legacy backlog was going down, but what about those more recent cases? What is being done to deal with them?

The improved processes and the increased number of Home Office officials working on this issue mean that not only the legacy cases but the current ones will be dealt with more quickly, which will reduce the need for asylum accommodation of all types. I cannot comment on individual cases because the circumstances are different in each one, but the hon. Lady should rest assured that the lessons we have learned about the increased speed of processing will benefit those who are already in the system. Of course, we are also determined to drive down the number of people who come here in the first place, reducing the pressure on our asylum processing system in doing so.

The shambolic incompetence of this Government across every aspect of its disgraceful mismanagement of our country’s asylum system knows no bounds, but today I will highlight a particularly egregious example. We already knew that the number of removals of asylum seekers whose claims had been rejected had collapsed by 50% since Labour left office in 2010, but over the weekend it emerged that the Home Office had lost contact with an astonishing 85% of the 5,000 people who have been identified for removal to Rwanda. Where on earth are those 4,250 asylum seekers who have gone missing?

Will the Home Secretary drop all the smoke and mirrors and acknowledge that the Rwanda plan is just an extortionately expensive and unworkable distraction? When will he adopt Labour’s plan to recruit 1,000 additional immigration enforcement officers to a new returns unit, so that we can have a system that is based on common sense—

No, it is not “thank you”. I have to get a lot of people in and this is totally unfair. The question was very, very long, and I was coughing to get the hon. Gentleman to stop, not to continue. That is the signal we need to understand. If the hon. Gentleman does not want a particular Back Bencher to get in, I ask him please to point them out, because this is giving me that problem.

The mask has slipped. The Labour party has said that even if the Rwanda scheme were to be successful, it would not keep it. That shows what Labour Members really think about this. They have no plan, they have no commitment, and they have even said that if something was working they would scrap it. [Interruption.]