Mercy Muroki: The Government needs to get a grip on asylum seekers – and fast

I'm not actually sure what the government has got right on this issue.

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Figures reported in The Times this morning reveal that the cost of supporting asylum seekers has doubled in the last three years.

It now costs £430 million a year to provide housing and cash payments to individuals waiting for their asylum applications to be processed.

To be fair, in context – that isn’t a huge figure relative to other things the government splashes out on – in fact, it’s about £10 a year for every person of working age in the country.

But the asylum figures are very concerning on many fronts…

Here are just a few stats:

As of June of this year, the total number of asylum claims that were classed as a ‘work in progress’ was 125 thousands – according to the latest home office figures.

The caseload of asylum claims being handled at the moment by Home Office officials has DOUBLED in size since 2014. This IS partly driven by the fact applicants are waiting longer for outcomes, and the fact the number of people subject to removal action is growing fast.

Having said this, the number of annual asylum applications has actually been considerably lower in this decade than previously.

Applications peaked at over 84 thousand in the year 2002 – this is compared to around 35 thousand in 2019 and just under 30,000 last year.

It’s also worth nothing that the proportion of asylum claims which are refused has been shrinking over time – meaning a growing percentage of claims are accepted.

In 2004, for example, only 15% of applicants were successful in receiving asylum grants, in 2019, 48% of applicants were granted asylum.

Those are the topline figures on the state of asylum claims in the country.

And, these are figures that are only set to rise – the National Audit Office estimates that given current estimates for next year, the cost of housing and giving cash payments to asylum seekers could rise to over half a billion pounds – and that’s excluding the extra cost of keeping people in temporary hotels – a very expensive thing indeed.

What an absolute mess this whole situation is.

I think there are many people who will be waking up this morning, looking at these figures – and it just not sitting right with them. And many others who will be livid.

Of course, there are some people who want us to shut our doors completely to asylum seekers – I don’t hold this view. I don't think that’s the British way. We've never been the kind of nation that shuts our doors when people need our help.

I feel that we should continue being a place of refuge for those that genuinely need it.

But I also feel, that unless the government are seen to be keeping these figures under control, the impact this will have will be incredibly damaging for public opinion.

They can’t seem to keeping levels of dangerous illegal crossings under control, they can’t seem to actually remove those who are denied asylum and have no right to be here, asylum processing times are taking longer than ever, there have been a catalogue of failings and embarassments when it comes to housing conditions for asylum seekers, and the rapid RISE in spending on asylum support over the last few years is just really not a good look, to put it mildly.

I'm not actually sure what the government HAS got right on this issue.

The charity of the British people will start wearing thing very soon and the government need to get a grip - and fast.