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Asylum-seekers waiting over a year for claim decision surged almost 10-fold since Tories came to power, figures reveal

THE number of asylum-seekers waiting more than a year for a decision on their claim has surged almost 10-fold since the Tories came to power in 2010. 

Home Office figures obtained by the Refugee Council through freedom of information requests found that the number of people waiting for an initial decision on their claim rose from 3,588 people in 2010 to 33,016 in 2020. 

The number of children waiting over a year increased even further, from 563 to 6,887 over the same period — more than 12-fold. 

The Refugee Council said its staff often see asylum-seekers becoming increasingly unstable the longer they are forced to wait, with some cases leading to self-harm and suicidal thoughts. 

Ali*, who is from Yemen, was forced to wait almost two years for a decision on his asylum claim. 

He told the Morning Star that the delays had affected every element of his life, and that he needed to seek help for his mental health as a result. 

“It even affected my studies ... with my focus in the lectures. Also affecting my relationships with the other people. I didn’t want to see anyone, just sitting in my room and thinking a lot and having a panic [about] what will happen tomorrow.”

Ali*, who supports other Yemeni asylum-seekers, said his experience is shared by hundreds of others, who start losing hope as a result of waiting in limbo. 

Many also suffer depression, weight loss and cannot focus or concentrate, he added. 

Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon said: “Leaving vulnerable men, women and children waiting for years on end for news of their fate in what feels like a never ending state of limbo is cruel and unjust.”

There are currently 65,000 people waiting in the queue. 

The Home Office said its New Plan for Immigration will stop people coming to Britain “illegally,” reducing the number of people in the system which is “preventing genuine cases being looked at quickly.”

But Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants public affairs and campaigns manager Minnie Rahman said the delays would “only get worse if the unworkable proposals in the Borders Bill are implemented. 

“The end result will be that hundreds more people are left in limbo,” she said. 

The plans, due to be introduced in Parliament next week, would see asylum-seekers who arrive in Britain via irregular routes having their claims ruled inadmissible and held in detention centres while the Home Office tries to find a country willing to accept them after removal. 

Refugee Action CEO Tim Naor Hilton said the plans risked turning “disaster into catastrophe by forcing thousands of people to languish in de facto detention centres, all for the pure theatre of looking tough on immigration.

“We can see this crisis coming. The government must act by ripping up their New Plan for Immigration and starting again, focusing on the needs of those seeking protection.”

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