In a report out this week, the cross-party Public Accounts Committee of the British Parliament has criticised the UK Government for failing to resolve 29,000 asylum applications dating back to at least 2007, of which 11,000 have not even received an initial decision on their claim. The Committee also found that further delays dealing with new asylum cases are creating a new backlog of applications awaiting an initial decision. The number of claims awaiting an initial decision increased 70% to 16,273 in the first quarter of 2014, compared to same period last year.

“Behind these statistics are individuals, many of whom will have suffered extreme trauma, forced to live day to day in uncertainty while they await the outcome of what could be a life or death decision,” said the Head of Advocacy of the British Refugee Council, Lisa Doyle.

Asylum Aid underlined that one in four asylum decisions are getting struck down on appeal and highlighted the need for a fair and efficient asylum system that produces good quality decisions within a reasonable time-frame. “It would be a mistake to respond to this report by focusing solely on increasing the speed of decision making without also reviewing the quality”, said Zoe Gardner, at Asylum Aid.

While waiting for a decision on their case, asylum seekers are usually not allowed to do paid work and survive in difficult conditions off low levels of state support.

The Home Office dismantled the UK Border Agency last year underlining the difficulties for the Agency to deal with its casework, which lead to backlogs, and took over responsibility for asylum processing.

According to the BBC, the Home Office said the committee’s figure of 11,000 asylum seekers awaiting an initial decision on whether they could stay in the UK was inaccurate.


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This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 31 October 2014. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.