More asylum seekers claiming financial support in Manchester – as national backlog hits all-time high
More asylum seekers were receiving support in Manchester while their claim was processed than last year, figures show, as the number of people waiting for an asylum decision hits its highest ever level.
The figures come as a refugee charity calls for an asylum system founded on "compassion and competence".
While awaiting a decision asylum seekers are unable to work but can be entitled to financial assistance and accommodation through what is known as 'Section 95' support.
Claimants may also be eligible for Section 98 – which is given to those who appear destitute and are waiting to see if they are eligible for Section 95 – or Section 4, for after a claim is rejected.
Figures from the Home Office shows 1,968 people were claiming asylum assistance in Manchester as of December – up from 1,067 a year before.
Of these people, 967 were receiving Section 95 support.
The figures come as the UK's backlog in asylum applications topped 160,900.
This was up 60% from 100,600 for the same period in 2021, and the highest figure since current records began in 2010.
The Refugee Council charity called the backlog "alarming", adding people fleeing persecution are being left "in limbo" while awaiting a decision.
"We need an asylum system that isn’t just about control, but is also about compassion and competence," its CEO, Enver Solomon, added.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has pledged to clear the 92,600 initial asylum claims in the system at the end of June 2022 by the end of 2023 – but the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford described the challenge as a “major headache” for the Government.
Senior researcher Dr Peter Walsh said other countries have “routinely received similar or higher numbers of claims” but processing the applications has been “particularly slow in the UK”.
The number of asylum seekers claiming Section 98 support – and therefore judged to be at risk of destitution – doubled from 24,200 to 49,500 last year.
Local figures on Section 98 support have only just been made available – with 905 people receiving it in Manchester.
In an effort to speed up the process, thousands of asylum seekers will now be sent 10-page questionnaires to fill out instead of facing an interview, with officials warning their claim could be “withdrawn” if they do not reply with the required information.
A Home Office spokesman said: “Our priority is to stop the boats and ensure that people who come here illegally are detained and swiftly removed.
“We are working to speed up asylum processing so that people do not wait months or years in the backlog, at vast expense to the taxpayer, and to remove everyone who doesn’t have a legitimate reason to be here.”
“To ensure our processes remain robust and all claims are properly considered, we have recruited hundreds of caseworkers to crack through cases,” they added.