While the Home Office annual spending has reached a record £2bn, the backlogs of cases continue to grow as does arrivals across the channel. Meanwhile, the unworkable Rwanda deal designed to deter arrivals continues to be under severe critique.

UK’s asylum system is costing tax payers a record £2bn a year with Home Office spending up £756m from around £1.4bn in 2020/21. At the same time the backlog of asylum cases is up 66 per cent in one year with a total of 117,945 people awaiting an initial decision on their application by the end of June 2022. 85,917 of the applicants had been waiting for more than six months – up 59 per cent from 54,040 a year earlier and is also the highest number on record. Meanwhile, arrivals across the channel continue at fast pace. In the four months that passed since home secretary, Priti Patel, announced plans to deport irregular migrants to Rwanda in an attempt to curb Channel crossings 16,107 people have arrived in the UK after making the journey. According to provisional government figures, published by Guardian on 22 August, close to 5,000 people had made the dangerous crossing in that month up to that date. According to the defence ministry 1,295 people were detected on the channel on 22 August – up from the previous single-day record of 1,185 on 11 November 2021.

According to the Home Office Albania has pledged the deployment of senior law enforcement officers in the UK to provide information, support processing and assist in rapid removals of Albanian nationals arriving across the channel. The number of Albanians arriving has seen a substantial increase with 23 arriving between January and June 2021 and 2,165 came in the same period of 2022. The Guardian warns in an editorial on 28 August of politicians and media will use the situation: “to further muddy the waters between people smugglers – who are paid to transport people over borders – and traffickers working for criminal networks” pointing out that: “While there are examples of Albanian criminals who have returned after being deported, and increased cooperation with Albanian authorities makes sense in the current context, such cases should not be cited as if they are typical, or be allowed to obscure the wider picture of human need and distress”. According to ECRE member the Refugee Council: “Over half of Albanians who claim asylum in the UK are recognised as needing protection,” the organisation notes: “Just because a country is not at war, does not mean it is safe for all who live there”. The overall proportion of asylum seekers having their claims for asylum, leave or humanitarian protection approved between June 2021 and June 2022 was 76 per cent.

Meanwhile, the critique of UK’s agreement to outsource asylum protection to Rwanda continues. In its recently submitted evidence to the House of Lords on the memorandum of understanding (MoU) for the provision of an asylum partnership arrangement the Law Society of England and Wales stated: “The UK ‘asylum partnership’ with Rwanda is not legally binding, has not been scrutinised by parliament and does not protect the rights of asylum-seekers”. Law Society president I. Stephanie Boyce stated: ”the safeguards in the deal are not binding or enforceable – domestic and international law requirements do not apply to them. If an asylum-seeker’s human rights were breached in Rwanda they would have no way of seeking justice in the UK. They wouldn’t be able to appeal to British courts and there is nothing the UK could do to enforce their rights under the terms of the agreement”. Further, the society warned that torture and trafficking victims could be sent to Rwanda because of “inherently flawed” screening processes.

The fact that the agreement has so far failed to generate actual deportations and the that legal challenges of the policy is scheduled in the High Court in September and October has not stopped UK authorities from sending “notices of intent” to potential deportees – asylum seekers with claims deemed inadmissible under the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill as a result of their irregular arrival across the channel.

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This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.