The latest published statistics show that the speed of processing asylum applications continues to improve. 80 per cent. of applications (excluding withdrawals and third country cases 1 ) received in the period April to September 2003 had initial decisions reached and served within two months. 74 per cent. of applications received in 2002–03, and 61 per cent. of applications received in 2001–02, had initial decisions reached and served within two months. This exceeded the Government's targets of 65 per cent. for 2002–03 and 60 per cent. for 2001–02, and we are on track to meet the target of 75 per cent. for 2003–04.
The average time between application and initial decision was 10 months for initial decisions made in 2003, compared with 20 months for April 1997. This has been calculated using all cases for which data are available, including older cases decided as part of the reduction of the number of outstanding cases, as well as new cases decided as part of normal work in progress. The number of cases awaiting initial decision fell to 24,500 at the end of December 2003, the lowest level for more than a decade (and 41 per cent. lower than a year earlier), and continues to fall.
Information on the timeliness of initial decisions is published quarterly on the Home Office website at http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html