Many people in our community tell us both in person and online that they have been experiencing very long delays from the Home Office in moving forward with their asylum application.
We know that waiting a long time for a Home Office decision can be a very stressful and exhausting experience.
In this blog post, we try to explain:
- When people are facing delays
- What is causing the Home Office delays
- Delays and work permission for people seeking asylum
- Some steps you can take if you are facing delays in your application
When are people facing delays?
This can happen at different stages of the asylum process.
For example, many people are waiting many months or even years to be invited for a substantive (big) interview by the Home Office. Others are waiting a long time after their substantive interview has happened to receive a Home Office decision on their asylum claim, and some people who received a refusal of their initial asylum application are then waiting a very long time for a decision on their fresh claim.
The current Home Office website page on asylum decisions is very misleading, because it says that people will usually receive an initial (first) decision on their asylum claim within 6 months. This is now rarely the case.
This week, the Home Affairs Select Committee (this is a group of Members of Parliament who are responsible for checking the work of the Home Office) revealed that of all the people who arrived in the UK by boat and claimed asylum in 2021, only 4% of claims have been processed by the Home Office. That means that 96% of people who arrived in the UK by boat in 2021 have not yet received a decision from the Home Office on their asylum claims. We are now in the final months of 2022.
Headlines surrounding these numbers have been misleading, because they state that 85% of asylum applications made by people who arrived in the UK by boat in 2021 have received a positive decision and the grant of refugee status. This number is misleading because it is not 85% of all the people who arrived in the UK by boat and claimed asylum in 2021. It is 85% of those claims which have been processed by the Home Office (which is only 4%).
What is causing the Home Office delays?
A report published by the Refugee Council in July 2021 found that the average waiting time for an initial decision on an asylum case is likely to be between one and three years. It stated that Home Office delays in providing initial decisions on asylum claims were mainly caused by a failure by the Home Office to keep up with the number of decisions that needed to be made.
David Neale, Chief Inspector for borders and immigration, highlighted this failure by the Home Office in a report which was published in May 2022. So, inefficient decision-making and ‘internal failings’ of the Home Office have led to this crisis.
It has been suggested that the delays might have been caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. But an article by Free Movement which summarises what is going on in the UK asylum system says otherwise:
“The backlog of asylum seekers waiting more than six months for a decision to be made on their case has trebled [this means that it has increased 3 times as much] since Priti Patel took over as Home Secretary in 2019.
While the pandemic might have made the issue harder to remedy, the trend began long before it began… The reason for the growing delays appears to be straightforward: fewer decisions are being made and the number of asylum claims has increased.
The percentage of cases on which a decision is being made within 6 months has declined drastically since 2014. This is despite an increase in staffing levels…
…The majority of these asylum seekers will ultimately be recognised as refugees and allowed to remain in the United Kingdom long term.”
Delays and work permission for people seeking asylum
At Right to Remain, we receive many queries every month about getting permission to work while waiting for an asylum decision from the Home Office.
Most people who have claimed asylum in the UK are initially not allowed to work. This can be really difficult because it feels like you cannot move on with your life, and you cannot earn your own money whilst waiting for a delayed decision from the Home Office.
However, the immigration rules allow for people seeking asylum to request permission to work if you have been waiting for more than 12 months on your asylum claim “through no fault of your own” (for example, a Home Office delay in giving you a decision). This may be 12 months after initially claiming asylum, or 12 months after submitting further submissions to be considered as a fresh claim.
Almost everybody granted permission to work under this policy is only allowed to work in a job on the shortage occupation list. This is a list published by the Home Office that shows jobs that have a shortage (this means not enough) people working in them in the UK.
For information on contacting the Home Office to request permission to work, read our Legal Update blog on this topic.
The Migration Justice Project at the Law Centre NI has drafted a guide to help people seeking asylum understand how and whether they can apply for permission to work while their claim is pending. The guide is available in a number of languages: English, Tigrinya, Somali, Farsi, and Arabic.
It includes information about applying for and receiving permission to work, what jobs you can apply for, applying for a National Insurance Number, and what this could all mean for your asylum support entitlement.
Steps you can take if you are facing delays
Waiting a long time for a Home Office decision can be emotionally exhausting and stressful, even if you eventually receive a positive decision and refugee status.
If you are waiting for your substantive interview, we strongly suggest that you use the time to prepare for the interview because it is an important part of your claim. There’s also lots of things that you, your friends, and community supporters can do so that you are in the best situation possible when you have your interview. We have lots of tips for ways you can prepare for your interview when the day finally comes.
If you are facing a delay at any point in the asylum process, it can sometimes be useful to get your local Member of Parliament (MP) involved in your asylum, human rights, or immigration case. You can find out who your local MP is by visiting the They Work For You website and typing in your postcode. Contacting your MP can be useful for two main reasons. First, they may be able to contact the Home Office on your behalf to speed up the time it takes for them to give you a decision.
However, given the number of delays across the country, this might not be possible or successful. So, the second useful thing about contacting your MP about a delay is that it shows them just how many people in their constituency are facing Home Office delays; and this makes it more likely that they will raise the issue in Parliament which will give it more attention. For example, when the Home Affairs Committee was giving evidence last week, one MP was able to mention that someone in their constituency had been waiting for over 2 years for an initial interview.
To find out more, read our Toolkit page.
To find out more about delays and steps you might be able to take like complaining to the Home Office or bringing a judicial review, watch our YouTube video on delays.
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