Asylum Backlog Passes 70,000
Almost 71,000 asylum seekers, including dependants, were awaiting an initial decision on their claim for refugee status as of 30 June 2021, according to new Home Office figures. The overall backlog has doubled in just a couple of years: at the end of 2018, the figure was 36,000. The rise in pending cases comes despite the number of new applications remaining below pre-pandemic levels. The flow of asylum claims into the system rose in the second quarter of 2021, but remains well below the 2019 peak. The running total in the year ending 30 June 2021 is lower than the number for the year to 30 June 2020. A different measure of the backlog — asylum seekers waiting for more than six months for an initial decision — also shows an alarming rise. The number of people in this position is up almost 40% year-on-year, to 54,000 (see chart below).
What about resettlement? Earlier this month, Home Office minister Chris Philp wrote a testy letter to the Financial Times chastising the paper for its “incomplete” reporting on that issue: The FT states that since the start of the pandemic, the UK has ended a resettlement scheme. But you fail to mention the launch of the UK Resettlement Scheme (UKRS) in March, which replaced the UK’s vulnerable persons resettlement scheme after this exceeded its target of welcoming 20,000 refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria, and which has ensured the continued resettlement of refugees. We now know that 310 people benefitted from the UK Resettlement Scheme in the first six months of 2021. Overall, resettlement is running at about a quarter of pre-pandemic levels, as the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford points out.
Finally, a word on the number of asylum claims being declared “inadmissible” under new rules in force since 1 January: 1,509 ‘notices of intent’ were served to individuals to inform them that their case was being reviewed in order to determine whether removal action on inadmissibility grounds was appropriate and possible. This more than doubled in Q2 (April to June) 2021 with 3,052 notices being issued. That said, only seven people actually had their case deemed inadmissible in 2021 so far, and none have been removed from the UK.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/qfMkCY
Deportation and Voluntary Departure From the UK
Enforced returns have fallen year on year since 2012. In 2020, there were around 3,300 enforced returns, 54% fewer than in 2019, and the lowest annual number since records began in 2004. This steep fall is likely to have resulted from the pandemic.
Since 2010, Home Office statistics have broken down enforced returns into three categories. These data show that most enforced returns are from detention: 86% in 2020. The decline in enforced returns in 2020 forms part of a longer-term fall in enforced returns after 2012. The Home Office reports (2019a) that pre-pandemic falls in enforced returns have coincided with changes across the immigration system. Most notably, the government reduced the use of detention and the size of the detention estate (see our briefing on Immigration Detention in the UK), and implemented changes following the Windrush scandal to give more scrutiny to detention decisions and ‘make better use of face-to-face engagement’ with detainees (Joint Committee on Human Rights, 2019, p. 4). A review of illegal working by the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (2019) also identified factors that may have reduced removals following Windrush, including a pause in data sharing between government departments and lower morale among front-line enforcement staff.
A Home Office report, Issues raised by people facing return in immigration detention, credits part of the decline in enforced returns to an increase in detainees raising “issues”, such as asylum claims or legal challenges, that prevent their return. Most people who leave the UK via enforced return do so from detention, that is, directly from detention or within two days of leaving detention. In 2020, 86% of enforced returnees left from detention (Home Office, 2021a).
Source: Migratin Observatory, https://is.gd/OfTj7h
Shortage Occupation List Review in 2022 is too late
Jobs that British employers struggle to recruit for are on the Shortage Occupation List. With separate entries for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, it seeks to be responsive to the needs of industry across the devolved nations. The Migration Advisory Committee advises the UK government on which roles should be on the list. The next MAC review is pressing — but will not even begin until 2022. Some sectors, such adult social care, have been screaming for attention for years now. Hiring staff on a Skilled Worker visa generally requires them to be paid at least £25,600, and for the role to pass a minimum skills threshold (RQF Level 3). Employers in certain sectors are unable to meet either. A role being on the Shortage Occupation List entitles employers to hire at lower salaries, as well as to overlook the skills threshold. Senior care workers (SOC 6146) were included in the last update of the Shortage Occupation List. But it is not senior care workers who are in the shortest supply. The jobs that locals refuse to do are the ones that involve hands-on care of the elderly and the vulnerable. Those are not listed as shortage occupations.
Read more: Freemovement, https://is.gd/kIy23P
Justice for Simba Mujakachi - No Borders in the NHS
Two years ago, Simba Mujakachi had a stroke which left him in a coma and fighting for his life. When he woke, he was given a £100,000 bill -- all because of the racist Hostile Environment which forces the NHS to charge people for care on the basis of their immigration status.
Simba has lived in the UK since he was 14 years old, when he and his family came to the UK from Zimbabwe. A few weeks before his 30th birthday, Simba suffered an unbearable headache and collapsed at home. He was rushed to his local hospital and needed life-saving brain surgery to relieve the pressure from bleeding in his brain. Simba survived, but the stroke left him in a coma for two weeks, and paralysed on his left side. He woke up to a bill for £93,000. Two years on, Simba is fighting for his recovery but Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust is still chasing him for payment.
A Petition calling for the charges to be scrapped has been signed by over 68,000 people
Please add your signature here: https://is.gd/ZEiPT7
Latest Home Office Immigration Statistics - Year Ending June 2021
In the year ending March 2021, enforced returns from the UK decreased to 2,420, less than half the number (64% fewer) in the previous year, and the lowest number since the series began in 2004. Although the number of enforced returns has been declining since the peak in 2012, the sharp fall in the latest year was related to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. There were just 361 enforced returns in 2020 Q2 (April to June), immediately following the outbreak. Although numbers did increase in Q3 (837) and Q4 (800), they decreased to 422 in 2021 Q1, coinciding with the lockdown imposed in early January 2021. In the year ending March 2021, 2,345 FNOs were returned from the UK, 51% fewer than the previous year (4,784). FNO returns had fallen to 5,124 in 2019, following a steady increase between 2011 and 2016 due to more FNOs from the EU being returned. FNO figures are a subset of the total returns figures and constitute 41% of enforced and voluntary returns, with the majority being enforced returns.
The number of people entering detention in year ending June 2021 was 17,088, 11% fewer than the previous year. Although in part affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, this continues a general downward trend since 2015 when the number entering detention peaked at over 32,000. As at 30 June 2021, there were 1,550 people in immigration detention, 122% more than at 30 June 2020 (698) immediately following the first UK lockdown, but 5% fewer than at 31 December 2019 (1,637), pre-pandemic. In the year ending June 2021, 16,209 people left the detention estate (down 19%). Over two-thirds (69%) had been detained for seven days or fewer, compared with 40% in the preceding year. This is in part due to an increasing proportion of detainees being those detained for short periods on arrival to the UK before being bailed, typically while their asylum (or other) application is considered.
Grants of Asylum or Protection
The UK offered protection, in the form of asylum, humanitarian protection, alternative forms of leave and resettlement, to 10,725 people (including dependants) in the year ending June 2021, 37% down from the number in the year ending June 2020. This included 661 people granted protection through resettlement schemes, 81% fewer than in the previous year. The fall in the number of people offered protection is due to fewer initial decisions being made on asylum applications (13,929 decisions compared with 18,239 in the previous year), as well as the pause to resettlement activity between March and November 2020, both impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. There were 31,115 asylum applications (main applicants only) in the UK in the year ending June 2021, 4% fewer than the previous year. This latest figure will have been impacted, in part, due to the measures taken in response to COVID-19. In the year ending June 2021, there were 13,929 initial decisions made on asylum applications. Over half (55%) of these were grants of asylum, humanitarian protection or alternative forms of leave (such as discretionary leave or UASC leave), up from the previous year (53%).
There were 200,177 applications for British citizenship in the year ending June 2021, 35% more than in the year ending June 2020. Applications for citizenship by EU nationals rose by 83% compared to the previous year, to 74,384. EU nationals now account for more than a third (37%) of all citizenship applications compared with 12% in 2016. Increases in citizenship applications from EU nationals since 2016 are likely to reflect more people seeking to confirm their status in the UK following the EU referendum and the UK’s exit from the EU. There were 147,369 grants of British citizenship in the year ending June 2021, 4% more than the previous year. This was due in part to the COVID-19 pandemic response and comes after a period of relative stability since 2014.
There were 108,773 decisions on applications for settlement in the UK in the year ending June 2021, a 26% increase on the previous year. Of these, 106,876 (98%) resulted in a grant.
Extension of Temporary Stay in the UK
Excluding extensions granted to individuals who were unable to leave the UK because of travel restrictions or self-isolation related to COVID-19, there were 327,211 decisions on applications to extend a person’s stay in the UK (including dependants) in the year ending June 2021, 27% more than a year earlier.
Permits Granted for Family Reasons
There were 215,746 visas and permits granted for family reasons in the year ending June 2021, 40% more than the year ending June 2020. A sharp fall in grants was seen in April to June 2020 due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the number of grants of visas and permits has begun to recover to pre-pandemic levels. There were 97,189 grants of visas to dependants of people coming to the UK on other types of visas, up 46%; there were particularly large increases in grants to dependants of Sponsored study visa holders (up 13,423 to 29,967), and dependants of Skilled workers (up 13,479 to 50, 671). There were 51,814 EUSS family permits issued to non-EEA close family members of those granted settled or pre-settled status through the EU Settlement Scheme (up 307%). This is likely to be linked to publicisation of the EU Settlement Scheme deadline of 30 June 2021 for EEA citizens and their family members resident in the UK before the end of the transition period at 11pm on 31 December 2020.
Source: Home Office, https://is.gd/k546ua