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UK: Asylum questionnaire is 'too little, too late'

© Marie-Anne Ventoura - Amnesty International

New Home Office statistics show asylum claims backlog topping 160,000

‘Refusing asylum to people who have good claims by making unreasonable bureaucratic demands is a recipe for more injustice’ - Steve Valdez-Symonds

The Home Office’s new “fast-track” questionnaire system for selected groups of people seeking asylum is “too little, too late” and risks introducing fresh injustice into the asylum system, said Amnesty International today, while newly-published immigration statistics confirmed again the “disastrous” impact of the Government’s policies on asylum.

According to various reports, the new questionnaire - an 11-page document being sent to around 12,000 people who have fled from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Yemen - will require applicants to complete and submit the form - in English only - within 20 days or risk being refused asylum.

News of the questionnaire comes as new Home Office figures show that the overall backlog of asylum claims waiting for an initial decision is 160,919 at the end of last year. From that, the number of people waiting more than six months for an initial decision on their claim for protection in the UK is 109,641, up 77% year-on-year from 61,864.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s Refugee and Migrant Rights Director, said:

“For more than two years we’ve been sounding the alarm that the asylum applications backlog was spiralling out of control, and the latest figures once again show the disastrous impact of Government policies on asylum - particularly a decision taken in December 2020 to delay or refuse to process thousands of people’s claims.

“At best, the Home Office’s new questionnaire scheme is too little, too late - and at worst it could make a situation of dire backlogs and rising costs even worse.

“A rushed measure to address the claims of 12,000 people out of a backlog of more than 160,000 is not going to solve this mess.

“Introducing a questionnaire with the threat that failure to complete and return it in time may lead to a refusal is dangerous and foolish.

“Refusing asylum to people who have good claims by making unreasonable bureaucratic demands is a recipe for more injustice in the asylum system.

“Everyone seeking asylum in the UK should have their claim fairly and efficiently examined as soon as possible in a consistent process, although many people will not require an extended review of their case as it should quickly be obvious that they are refugees.

“The Home Secretary’s recent comments on protests outside hotels, on Channel crossings and on the shameful Rwanda deal all suggest that she is fundamentally unwilling and incapable of fixing the asylum system which she and others before her have degraded to the point of destruction.

“Suella Braverman’s ultimate goal appears to be to avoid her responsibilities rather than playing her part in managing a properly efficient, humane system for dealing with people who’ve fled war and persecution.”

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