The Home Office took more than 20 years to rule on an asylum application, a freedom of information request has revealed.
The Guardian recently reported it had obtained data that showed in 2017, 17 people had received an initial decision on asylum applications submitted 15 years ago.
In one of these cases, the application was submitted 26 years ago, with a further three applications taking more 20 years for an initial ruling.
Dire Poverty and ‘Utterly Barbaric’
Asylum seekers are expected to survive on £37.75 per week. Image Credit: Flickr
Many asylum seekers face destitution as they’re not permitted to work and must live on £37.75 per person a week, which equates to £5.39 per day for food, travel, clothing, toiletries and a mobile phone.
This leaves many individuals and families seeking asylum in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland living in dire poverty while they wait for the Home Office to rule on their applications.
What’s more, when this period is stretched out over months or even years, charities say it begins to take its toll.
The charity Asylum Matters adds that this can have a big negative impact on the self-esteem and mental health of asylum seekers.
Stephen Hale, chief executive of Refugee Action, told the Guardian: “Forcing some people to wait more than 15 years for a decision on their asylum claim while banned from work and living below the poverty line is utterly barbaric.”
Our Right to Freedom from Inhuman or Degrading Treatment
Image Credit: Wikimedia
This situation touches on Article 3 of the Human Rights Convention, which outlines our freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.
No one shall be subjected to to torture, or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment
Article 3 states: “No one shall be subjected to to torture, or to inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
This also means that we can’t be treated in ways that violate our dignity and cause severe physical and mental suffering.”
In theory this also means, governments must ensure torture and ill-treatment never take place – and carry out effective investigations if they do.
Overhauling The System
There are calls for the Home Office to overhaul its asylum application process. Image Credit: Pixabay
The Home Office aims to make a decision on asylum claims in six months and in more complex cases within a further six months.
However it is not uncommon for decisions to take between one and three years – the Guardian’s freedom of information request revealed in 2017, decisions in 18 189 cases (75%) were taken within six months, with 3059 taking between one and three years, and 243 between three and five years.
It’s also important to note these are initial decisions and do not factor in lengthy appeal cases.
People’s lives are put on hold, forcing them to live in limbo and uncertainty. This is totally unacceptable.
Christopher Wren, Refugee Council
However, the delays have led to calls for an overhaul of the asylum ruling system.
Christopher Wren of Refugee Council told the Guardian, “This is not a temporary admin problem, but the predictable outcome of a system that all too often gives little or no thought to the human consequences of its actions.
“People’s lives are put on hold, forcing them to live in limbo and uncertainty. This is totally unacceptable. These figures underline the pressing need for a major overhaul of the way we treat people seeking refugee protection in the UK.”