One of the biggest problems with the Home Office is that it’s just rubbish at its job.

Apart from maybe standing shoulder to shoulder with Ukraine, the incompetence of the department is pretty much the only thing all of the UK's main political parties agree on.

Even the Tories. Even government ministers. 

According to the most up-to-date figures, of the 4,300 appeals lodged against asylum decisions taken in the year ending March 2023, 53% were successful.

There were 19,706 initial decisions made on asylum applications over the same time period. Of those, the Home Office got it wrong more than 11% of the time.

Out of every ten asylum seekers, one will initially, erroneously, be told they need to leave the country.

We can expect the real number to be much higher, as many of those who could appeal almost certainly don’t.

But at least those people with the wrong decision have had a decision.

The backlog of asylum cases is eye-watering. And that’s because of two things, firstly the number of people coming to the UK claiming asylum, and the Home Office’s inability to process those claims in anything close to a swift manner.

The Herald: Suella Braverman has blamed 'phoney humanitarianism' for the UK Government's failure to stop small

At the end of March 2022, there were 89,344 cases relating to 109,735 people, still waiting to be processed.

By the end of March 2023, there were 133,607 cases, relating to 172,758 people, awaiting an initial decision.

We know, thanks to the Home Office’s transparency about its own incompetence, that of those cases, 59% were ‘legacy.’

That means those 78,954 were all made before 28 June 2022.

At the end of last year, Rishi Sunak promised he would clear this legacy backlog by the end of this year.

Over the weekend, it emerged that to be anywhere close to achieving that, the Home Office would need to process an average of 2,800 claims per week.

How does that compare to last year? Well, 19,706 divided by 52 works out at just under 378 a week.

So, not great.

Read More: Home Office seeks permission to locate asylum barge in Glasgow

The likelihood of the UK Government managing to clear the backlog before Hogmanay is so improbable that if they do, they’re going to have to show their working because frankly nobody will believe them.

Indeed, reports over the weekend, suggested the Home Office was already “cooking the books” by removing thousands of claims from the system for bureaucratic infractions.

Once removed from the system, people are ineligible for the housing and financial support offered to asylum seekers.

According to the Independent, In the three months before the PM promised to clear the backlog, 397 asylum claims were withdrawn by Home Office officials without the applicants’ consent, but between January and March the number rocketed to 2,029.

Why do we have this long wait?

The number of people waiting for an asylum decision has increased by 408% since December 2017.

The Herald: LONDON, ENGLAND - JUNE 13: People protest against the UK deportation flights to Rwanda outside the Home Office on June 13, 2022 in London, England. The Court of Appeal has rejected a legal bid to stop a Home Office flight taking asylum seekers from the

While there has been a spike in the number of asylum applications, the backlog has increased far more.

The Commons Home Affairs Select Committee recently put the blame down to the slow processing of the Home Office.

It’s worth noting that iur backlog is bigger than most European countries, despite receiving far fewer asylum applications.

Of course, this wait has a knock-on effect.

There’s the impact it has on the asylum seeker. Having no money and not being able to eat properly or work or find a home while you’re waiting for a decision is going to take a toll on you mentally and physically.

But there’s also the cost. The government has a statutory responsibility to support applicants and their dependents if they are destitute or likely to become destitute, covering housing and basic subsistence.

That’s expensive.

Read More: Herald poll: Should Glasgow host an asylum barge?

In December 2022 the prime minister stated that the government was paying £5.5m a day to accommodate asylum seekers in hotels.

And so we come to the barges, and the news that agents for the Home Office were looking for potential sites in Glasow to house one.

On Monday, we saw the first batch of asylum seekers transferred to the controversial Bibby Stockholm, moored in Portland Port, Dorset.

According to some refugee charities, the 47-year-old barge is effectively a floating prison. Designed to hold 222 people, it will hold closer to 500. They fear it will be prone to infection outbreaks, fire and crushing.

The Fire Brigade Union has called the ship a “potential deathtrap.”

Though, in a recent interview with my colleague Catriona Stewart, the CEO of the charter company, Joyce Landry, described the Bibby Stockholm as "actually quite lovely."

She has insisted that the people on board will be treated with dignity.

Landry’s firm also supplied two cruise ships used by the Scottish Government to house Ukrainian refugees in Glasgow and Edinburgh. It’s worth noting that there were, in the end, few complaints about the standards there.

Nonetheless, it’s hard to disagree with Jon Featonby from the refugee council, that the “amount of time, effort and money gone into trying to get 1% of the people accommodated in hotels into this unsuitable and unsafe barge surely would have been better used just making a few more decisions out of the 170k backlog”

...enjoyed the article? Sign up for free to the Unspun newsletter and receive it directly to your inbox every weekday night at 7pmClick here 👈