Backlogs in the Asylum System are Keeping Refugee Families Apart

July 2, 2021

A new report released today by the Refugee Council exposes the colossal surge in asylum decision backlogs over the last number of years. The report states that by the end of March 2021, there were a staggering 66,185 people awaiting an initial decision from the Home Office. Of these, three quarters, over 50,000 people had been waiting for an initial decision for more than 6 months, the highest number for over a decade.

Further, the number of people awaiting an initial decision for more than a year has increased almost tenfold from 3,588 people in 2010 to 33,016 in 2020. 

Under the current family reunion rules, you are only eligible to begin the process of applying for family reunion if you have been granted refugee status or humanitarian protection. The delays in issuing decisions on asylum applications means that refugee families are kept apart for years at a time, with family members often living in insecure and sometimes dangerous circumstances whilst waiting to reunite. The report states that the percentage of cases that had an initial decision within 6 months fell from 87% in 2014 to just 20% in 2020. Thus, the vast majority of people who are hoping to reunite with their family members in the UK if they have their application approved, are waiting more than 6 months before they can even begin the process. 

Kemal, one of the case studies in the report, has been waiting for almost two years for his substantive interview. His wife and children are living in another country, waiting to be reunited with him. As a result of the extremely long waiting time for his interview, Kemal’s oldest child has turned over 18, meaning that even if Kemal receives a positive decision on his application, under the current rules they won’t be allowed to reunite. Kemal’s story highlights the incredibly cruel and inhumane consequences of the current backlogs, which are forcing families to be kept permanently apart.  

Those waiting more than 6 months for an asylum decision or an interview are living in a protracted state of limbo, which impacts their mental well-being and their ability to integrate. It is well documented that being separated from family members causes feelings of stress, anxiety, guilt, isolation and loneliness. The Home Office must urgently address the backlogs in the current system and put in place mechanisms to speed up the asylum process so that those who receive status are not left living years in the UK without their families.