More asylum seekers received financial support in Milton Keynes, despite UK backlog falling

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Asylum seekers cannot work while awaiting a decision

More asylum seekers received support in Milton Keynes while their claim was processed last year, new figures show.

Asylum seekers cannot work while waiting for a decision, but can be entitled to ‘Section 95’ support which allows them financial assistance and accommodation.

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Home Office figures show 196 people were claiming assistance in Milton Keynes as of December last year – up from 77 in 2022.

Signage of the Home Office, London. Thursday August 28 2014. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PASignage of the Home Office, London. Thursday August 28 2014. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Signage of the Home Office, London. Thursday August 28 2014. Photo credit should read: Stefan Rousseau/PA

Of those, 194 were receiving Section 95 support.

The figures come as the UK's backlog for asylum applications fell by 20 per cent from 160,919 at the end of 2022 to 128,786 people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum applications in December 2023.

This is down by more than a quarter from 175,457 at the end of June 2023, which was the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

British Red Cross head of policy Tom Cottam said while the figures indicate some positive progress in reducing the legacy asylum backlog, they don’t tell the full story as “thousands of people are stuck in indefinite limbo because the Illegal Migration Act prevents them from getting a decision”.

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The aim of the act is to prevent and deter ‘unlawful’ migration by those using unsafe routes and was passed in July last year.

Mr Cottam added: “We are concerned about the human impact of this.

“We see the toll it’s taking on people’s physical and mental health, as they’re often not allowed to work, and cannot find a proper home or be with their families.”

Claimants may also be eligible for support under Section 98 – given to those who appear destitute and waiting to see if they are eligible for Section 95 – or Section 4, for after a claim is rejected.

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The number of people receiving Section 98 support fell substantially from 49,493 in December 2022 to just 1,244 last year. None of them were in Milton Keynes.

Withdrawn applications quadrupled in 2023, the Refugee Council said it was “very concerned by”.

Changes were made to the immigration rules last year to speed up the process, including treating applications as ‘implicitly withdrawn’ if an applicant fails to maintain contact with the Home Office or complete an asylum questionnaire.

There were 24,027 withdrawals, relating to 25,583 people, a steep rise on 2022, with 5,255 relating to 5,944 people.

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Refugee Council CEO Enver Solomon said: “Withdrawals should never be used as a way to reduce the backlog and should only be employed in certain, very specific circumstances.”

He added withdrawals can have ‘terrible consequences’, with people ending up destitute and cut off from support.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are making progress to stop the boats and last year the UK bucked the trend by reducing illegal migration and made significant steps in tackling abuse of our asylum system.

“Channel crossings were down by over a third, we cleared the legacy asylum backlog, enforced returns were up by 66 per cent and we returned 50 hotels back to their communities.

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“We will pass our Rwanda Bill so those who enter the UK illegally can be quickly removed to a safe third country. Only by removing the prospect that illegal migrants can settle in the UK can we control our borders and save lives at sea.”