Thousands of asylum cases are to be accelerated as part of the Interior Ministry’s plans

People staying at accommodation for asylum seekers at Napier Barracks in Folkestone, Kent in 2021 (Image: PA)

Thousands of asylum seekers will be able to quickly track their applications under new Home Office plans aimed at tackling the staggering backlog of cases.

Around 12,000 people from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen who have applied for asylum in the UK and are awaiting a decision are considered eligible under the directive.

Under the new procedure, which is due to start on Thursday, 10-page questionnaires will be sent to those arriving in the country instead of being interviewed automatically.

The forms ask asylum seekers about 40 questions, some of which may not apply to them, and they are asked to return them within 20 working days before being offered an extension.

The system applies to adult applicants and their dependent children, but not to single migrants under the age of 18.

Applicants could still be called for an interview, while applicants who fail to provide the required information and evidence could have their application rejected.

Officials stressed that the move was nothing like a so-called asylum amnesty and said thorough security checks would continue to be carried out.

The new plan aims to clear the asylum backlog by the end of a year, reflecting a pledge by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak at the National Crime Agency headquarters

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak met officials at the National Crime Agency’s headquarters in London after the new “small boat operations command” was announced (Image: PA).

Figures to be released are expected to show that there are more than 150,000 pending asylum cases.

It also comes at a time of intense scrutiny of the immigration system.

Earlier this month, a violent riot broke out in Knowsley, Merseyside, outside the Suites Hotel, which has been housing a number of asylum seekers.

Conditions at sites such as Manston and Napier Barracks in Kent have also been criticized over the two years.

Police car disembark and riot police outside the Knowsley Suites Hotel, Kirkby, Liverpool. Photo credit: Liverpool Echo

A rescue van was set on fire outside the Suites Hotel near Kirkby, Merseyside earlier this month (Image: Liverpool Echo)

Meanwhile, Mr Sunak has vowed to block small boats from crossing the English Channel, a key pillar of his government.

Commenting on the Home Office’s latest plans, Caitlin Boswell of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: “People fleeing conflict and violence clearly need this government to make faster and fairer asylum decisions, but this latest government move is clumsy and clumsy thoughtless and could endanger the safety of people.

“No one’s right to refuge should be jeopardized because he/she could not fill out a long, cumbersome form in a language he/she does not speak.”

The Refugee Council’s chief executive, Enver Solomon, said steps to reduce the backlog were “welcome, but the answer is no longer red tape and threats that applications will be withdrawn,” adding that the process should be “well thought out.” .

Rishi Sunak plans to ban Channel migrants from deportation

Rishi Sunak has vowed to prevent small boats from crossing the channel (Image: Getty Images)

Labour’s shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper said: “It is damning that the Home Office is not already doing so, as Labor has been calling for accelerated prosecution of cases – including for safe countries like Albania – for months and UNHCR has recommended it before two years.

“Meanwhile, the asylum backlog has skyrocketed – by 50% since Rishi Sunak promised to clear it.”

According to the latest available figures from the Ministry of the Interior, there were 143,377 asylum applications pending a decision in the year to September 2022.

Of these, 97,717 had waited more than six months.

The numbers are expected to keep rising, with the latest official data due to be released on Thursday.

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Justin Scaccy

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