I’ve just gone down the rabbit hole of asylum statistics and I’ve got some mixed news. The thing that made me sit up and take notice was the headline figure that over 50% of all initial asylum decisions made were grants of some form of protection – generally asylum.

So lets start with some context. Not many people come to the UK to claim asylum. Yes, I know. I read the papers too. But there you have it. In 2019 35,737 people claimed asylum in the UK. That is about a quarter of the number of people who claimed asylum in France, or Germany in the same period. (132,614 France, 165,938 Germany). It’s less than half of the 84,132 who applied in Britain back in 2002. And all of this pales into insignificance when you look at the global picture. Turkey is hosting over 3.6M refugees. Jordan (population just under 10M) is hosting 2.9M refugees. Lebanon (population 6.8M) is hosting 1.4M. Iran, Pakistan, Uganda and Columbia are also hosting more than 1M refugees each.

So back to that headline ‘grant rate’. On the face of it this is fantastic. The tragedy of the asylum system for many years is the number of people initially refused asylum only to finally get it after a long fight through  appeals, destitution, further representations and so on. The whole thing could have been so much more humane (and so much cheaper) if the Home Office hadn’t been actively looking for any excuse to refuse people.

So does this mark an end to the ‘culture of disbelief’; part of the foundation of the hostile environment? Well, yes and no. And lets actually cheer the ‘yes’. This represents better decision making, will reduce the need for appeals, will allow people to start to build new lives, get jobs, pay taxes all much quicker. Down the line there will be less destitution because of this. Its clearly a good thing. Well Done Home Office!

But also ‘no’, because the other part of this is the number of decisions made, compared to the number of applications lodged. 35,000 applications: 20,000 decisions. Doesn’t add up. The number of people waiting for a decision, the ‘asylum backlog’ is now 51,213.  Over half of all asylum seekers now wait more than 6 months for an initial decision. It’s more important to make good decisions than to make quick decisions, but come on… These are lives on hold, people unable to work and unable to access most adult education. It’s enforced idleness which isn’t good for anyone. Not for those seeking asylum, for the communities that they live in or for anyone other than the private landlords paid to house them.