Asylum and Immigration Applications Backlog

Home Department – in the House of Commons at on 20 March 2023.

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Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development Team Member)

What steps she is taking to tackle backlogs in (a) asylum and (b) other immigration applications.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

What recent progress her Department has made on reducing the backlog of asylum applications.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Minister for Immigration

The Prime Minister made a commitment on 13 December to clear the legacy backlog of asylum applications over the course of this year. I am pleased to report that we are on track to deliver that. We have already doubled the number of caseworkers, and we are on course to double the number again. We are streamlining processes to reduce unnecessary paperwork while maintaining robust standards. The productivity of caseworkers has more than doubled since the start of the year.

Photo of Hannah Bardell Hannah Bardell Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Foreign Affairs Team Member), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (International Development Team Member)

My constituents Mr and Mrs Leeson have UK residency but are American citizens. They live in my Livingston constituency and are highly skilled, but they have had huge issues with getting their niece Karissa, who they have guardianship over, a visa to come to Scotland. A US court has ruled that they are her guardians, but they are being told that they will have to wait six months for an administrative review. Will the Minister meet me to discuss the case? My constituent and her niece are currently stuck in the US, and the family are being separated.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Minister for Immigration

I would be happy to look into the case that the hon. Lady raises. With respect to visas, I would just say that the UK visa service is now meeting or exceeding every one of its service standards, so the Government are providing a good service generally, but I would be happy to look into that case.

Photo of Meg Hillier Meg Hillier Chair, Public Accounts Committee, Chair, Public Accounts Committee

The Minister says that the Government are providing a good service, but that is not my experience, either of asylum cases or across the piece. There are so many cases of work visas, visitor visas and so on being delayed for longer than I have seen in the 18 years I have served as an MP, which have included serving in the Minister’s role. When will he get a grip? It is all very well saying that he is dealing with asylum, but it is like whack-a-mole: he puts effort into one area, and another area goes badly wrong. When is he going to get a grip?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Minister for Immigration

I prefer to trade in facts, and the fact is that in every single one of the visa categories the UK visa service is at or exceeding the service standard. It is true that we moved a number of people away from work and visit visa duties to ensure that we met the demands of the Homes for Ukraine scheme last year, but those people are now back on the job and the service is performing well. If the hon. Lady wants to give specific examples, I shall be happy to look into them.

Photo of Jerome Mayhew Jerome Mayhew Conservative, Broadland

The backlog of asylum seekers is increasing the need for accommodation. We have just heard outrage expressed by Alison Thewliss. Can my right hon. Friend update the House on the progress that the Scottish Government are making on housing numbers of asylum seekers similar to the numbers housed in the rest of the United Kingdom?

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Minister for Immigration

My hon. Friend is right to suggest that the outrage of the Scottish National party is entirely confected. There are almost no individuals in initial and contingency accommodation in Scotland; in fact, there are fewer hotels in Scotland than there are in Kensington. However, it is not just members of the SNP who should hang their heads in shame, but Labour in Wales, because in the whole of Wales there are only three hotels. There are more hotels in Earl’s Court than there are in Labour Wales.

Photo of Damian Collins Damian Collins Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee), Chair, Draft Online Safety Bill (Joint Committee)

As my right hon. Friend knows, the sudden influx over, say, a bank holiday weekend of thousands of migrants who have crossed the channel in small boats causes substantial infrastructure problems in Kent. If we are to stop this dangerous trafficking of people across the channel, we must not only crack down on the gangs but demonstrate that it is a futile practice which will not lead to a shortcut into the asylum system in the UK.

Photo of Robert Jenrick Robert Jenrick The Minister for Immigration

My hon. Friend has cut to the nub of the question. We cannot build ourselves out of this issue by creating more hotels or large sites. The only sustainable answer is to break the people smugglers’ model, and that is what the Illegal Migration Bill sets out to do. We on this side of the House are on the side of the British people, while those who vote against the Bill are on the side of the people smugglers. It is only by stopping people crossing the channel, by creating a genuine deterrent—for instance, sending people to a safe third country such as Rwanda—that we will achieve that.