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First failed asylum seeker sent from UK to Rwanda on voluntary scheme | Politics News

The UK has sent the first failed asylum seeker to Rwanda – under a voluntary scheme.

The scheme is for those who have gone through the asylum process and had permission rejected, rather than for migrants who have illegally entered Britain by crossing the Channel on small boats.

The migrant was sent on a commercial flight and handed a fee from the British taxpayer to help relocate under the terms of a deal with Rwanda.

Politics latest: Potential SNP contender hints she will stand

According to The Sun, the man of African origin claimed asylum in the UK but was rejected at the end of last year. He then accepted the offer to go to Rwanda.

He left the UK on Monday.

This was not under done using the powers set out in the Safety of Rwanda Act, but rather a parallel scheme that allows someone to choose to make the trip if their attempts to claim asylum in the UK fails.

And upon arrival in Kigali, the person is able to claim around £3,000 in UK taxpayer money as help.

Yvette Cooper, Labour’s shadow home secretary, said: “The Tories are so desperate to get any flight off to Rwanda before the local elections that they have now just paid someone to go.

“British taxpayers aren’t just forking out £3,000 for a volunteer to board a plane, they are also paying Rwanda to provide him with free board and lodgings for the next five years. This extortionate pre-election gimmick is likely to be costing on average £2m per person.

“Former Tory Home Office ministers warned that the government’s plan was just to get token flights off before a General Election. Now we know what they mean.”

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Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage said: “Don’t be conned by this new government spin on the Rwanda deal.

“This African man, who did not even cross the Channel, was refused asylum and has voluntarily accepted £3,000 and free board.

“It won’t stop the boats.”

The government’s attempts to forcefully remove people to Rwanda were announced more than two years ago, but no one has been sent so far.

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Earlier this month, parliament passed the Safety of Rwanda Act, and the government hopes to get flights off the ground in nine to 11 weeks.

The Home Office has been approached for comment.

Home Office accused of ‘celebrating failure’ as it vows to close 150 asylum hotels by May | Politics News

The Home Office has promised to close 150 migrant hotels by May after figures showed aid spending on asylum seekers in the UK rose to £4.3bn in 2023.

The department said the number of people staying in taxpayer-funded accommodation had dropped from 56,000 in September to fewer than 20,000 people currently as part of a drive to end the “damaging” practice.

Approximately £8m a day was spent housing thousands of asylum seekers in hotels last year, prompting the government to seek out alternative accommodation sites, including the Bibby Stockholm barge in Portland, Dorset, and disused military bases at Scampton in Lincolnshire and Wethersfield in Essex.

Former immigration minister Robert Jenrick, who resigned over Rishi Sunak’s plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, announced last October that the government would be “exiting” 50 hotels by the end of January, with more to follow.

Home Secretary James Cleverly said the process would continue “until the last hotel is closed”.

“We promised to end the use of asylum hotels and house asylum seekers at more appropriate, cheaper accommodation; we are doing that at a rapid pace,” he said.

Politics latest: Starmer’s wife ‘intimidated’ by protest at family home – as Labour suspends candidate

“These closures deliver on the government’s plan to cut the use of hotels in the asylum system and we will keep going until the last hotel is closed.”

But Labour’s shadow immigration minister Stephen Kinnock said the announcement amounted to the Conservatives “celebrating failure”.

“So-called ‘asylum hotels’ didn’t exist before the Tories lost control of the asylum backlog, and Rishi Sunak promised to end them by the end of 2023,” he said. “Yet here we are with around 250 still in use come mid-April.”

The Home Office announcement followed findings from the Independent Commission for Aid Impact (ICAI) which said the amount of aid spent on hosting refugees and asylum seekers in the UK soared last year to £4.3 billion.

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Sky’s Becky Johnson reports from one of the 50 asylum hotels that the government says are about to close – but the migrants there are simply moving to another one.

The ICAI said the figure was driven up by the Home Office paying out £2.5bn on hotel accommodation for the year, saying it had “continuing value for money concerns” over the department’s spending.

“Far from reducing as the costs of schemes for Ukrainian and Afghan refugees fell, the amount of aid spent within the UK was driven up further by the Home Office’s spending on hotel accommodation for asylum seekers,” the watchdog said.

Last month, a report by spending watchdog the National Audit Office (NAO) found that the government’s alternative plans for housing asylum seekers will actually cost the taxpayer £46m more than the hotels they seek to replace.

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The Home Office is expected to have spent at least £230m developing four major projects at the end of March – the Bibby Stockholm barge, the former RAF bases and ex-student accommodation in Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

But the NAO found that only two of the sites have opened so far – the Bibby Stockholm and the Wethersfield site – and they were only housing around 900 people by the end of January.

Both have suffered a number of setbacks, including an outbreak of Legionella on the barge in the days after it took its first asylum seekers, while, according to the NAO, the set-up costs for Wethersfield have risen from £5m to £49m.

Next week, MPs are expected to vote on amendments to the Safety Of Rwanda Bill, which aims to declare Rwanda a safe country to deport asylum seekers to. It effectively aims to circumvent the Supreme Court’s ruling last year that the policy of sending people who had arrived in the UK illegally to the African country is unlawful.

How asylum seekers being moved out of taxpayer-funded hotels are simply being moved to other hotels | UK News

Asylum seekers being moved out of taxpayer-funded hotels are simply being moved to other hotels still paid for by the Home Office, Sky News has learned.

The Home Office says it has already closed 50 hotels to migrants, something they had pledged to do by the end of this month with a promise to house them in cheaper types of accommodation like the Bibby Stockholm barge.

But Sky News has seen taxis full of migrants leaving one hotel in Kidderminster, Worcestershire, only to arrive at another hotel 70 miles away in Derbyshire.

One asylum seeker from Afghanistan, who we’re calling Khan, 19, arrived on a small boat in early June 2022. He will now be unable to continue attending college, where he was studying English and GCSE Maths, as his new hotel is too far away.

He states he had no choice but to move. “The hotel tell us that if you cancel this process you must sleep on the road like a homeless [person],” he says.

Migrants being moved from the hotel in Bewdley
Migrants being moved from now-closed hotel in Bewdley

Khan came to the UK because his family worked for the Afghan government so he no longer felt safe after the Taliban takeover of the country in 2021.

Due to the length of time he’s been waiting for a decision his asylum claim is part of the “legacy” backlog that Rishi Sunak pledged to “abolish” by the end of 2022.

The Home Office said the pledge had been “delivered”, having processed more than 112,000 asylum claims overall in 2023.

It means Khan had expected by now to not still be living in taxpayer-funded accommodation.

“I am also not happy to stay in hotel accommodation because I want to work. I want to start a new life and I cannot do something right now… just sleep and eat,” he says.

He currently has a solicitor chasing the Home Office for a decision on his claim.

“Up to now no-one gave me a response, up to December when I emailed them they told us wait up to the end of the year – now the new year start and when we email them, no-one responds.”

Khan came to the UK because he no longer felt safe after the Taliban  takeover of Afghanistan
Khan came to the UK because he no longer felt safe after the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan

A group of residents who offer support to people seeking asylum has been tracking the movements of these hotel closures over recent months.

Sarah Frost, lead co-ordinator from Wyre Forest Supports Asylum Seekers, told Sky News: “We’ve got four from here who got moved from a hotel that was closing just before Christmas.

“They got moved here, and now they’re moving on to another hotel. So some people have been in five or six hotels in a matter of six months or so.”

She adds: “I suppose [the Home Office is] consolidating hotels but obviously it still costs to feed the person…I can’t see how it’s really saving money because taxi fares from Derbyshire to Worcestershire is going to cost a lot of money.”

Another hotel in Bewdley, Worcestershire, was closed last week, but Sky News has been told the men were sent to three different hotels further north.

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Hallo was sent by taxi with eight other men to a hotel in Staffordshire
Hallo believes the moves are due to the upcoming election

Hallo, not his real name, 31, from Iraq was sent by taxi with eight other men to a hotel in Staffordshire.

“It’s just shifting around, just switching…just wasting money”, he says. “I think it’s just because of the next election so they want to tell the native people we sorted out the hotels, the cases, the backlog cases.”

The closure of hotels has also affected families. Near Bromsgrove in Worcestershire, the curtains are shut and children’s scooters have been abandoned outside a hotel that was recently closed to migrants.

Sky News has been told that children have lost school places because they were moved suddenly to another county.

The Home Office told Sky News it is making significant progress to reduce the cost of £8.2m a day to UK taxpayers.

A spokesperson said: “As we exit more hotels in the coming months, we remain upfront about accommodation being on a no-choice basis. This means that individuals may be moved to other parts of the asylum accommodation estate too, including hotels.”

Stats watchdog launches investigation into government’s asylum backlog claim | Politics News

The UK’s stats watchdog has launched an investigation into the government’s claim that it cleared the legacy backlog of asylum claims in 2023.

Rishi Sunak and his administration faced criticism on Tuesday for saying they had cleared all the applications to remain in the UK by asylum seekers made before 28 June 2022.

In total, 4,537 claims from the backlog still needed a decision as of Tuesday – but Mr Sunak’s spokesman said since these had been reviewed, the government considers them “cleared”.

Now, the Office for Statistics Regulation has launched an investigation into the announcement.

In total, the government had 92,000 claims to address from before June 2022 to meet the pledge made by Mr Sunak.

Numbers published by the Home Office showed that, in total, 112,138 initial asylum decisions were made between 1 January and 28 December, compared with 31,766 in all of 2022.

Some 86,800 of these decisions were for legacy cases, while, 25,338 were for non-legacy cases.

In total, 51,469 asylum applications were granted, while 25,550 were refused – meaning 67% were accepted. But it also means that 35,119 “non-substantive” decisions were made.

According to the Home Office, this is where the government withdraws the claim, it is paused, declared void or the applicant failed to complete a part of the application.

The 35,119 figure is more than two and a half times the 13,093 examples of non-substantive claims recorded in 2022.

The government has said that the remaining 4,537 more complex cases typically involve “asylum seekers presenting as children – where age verification is taking place; those with serious medical issues; or those with suspected past convictions, where checks may reveal criminality that would bar asylum”.

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Downing Street insists legacy asylum claims cleared – despite 4,537 remaining to be decided | Politics News

Downing Street has insisted that the prime minister has achieved his target of clearing the legacy backlog of asylum claims, despite the government’s own data showing that 4,537 remain.

Rishi Sunak pledged in December 2022 that he would “abolish” the legacy backlog of asylum claims made before 28 June of that year, with the Home Office being given the target of the end of 2023.

On Monday, the department said the pledge had been “delivered”, having processed more than 112,000 asylum claims overall in 2023.

There were more than 92,000 asylum claims made before 28 June 2022 requiring a decision, but 4,537 remain, according to the government’s official data.

Analysis: Sunak's asylum backlog claim isn't true - according to the government's own statistics

Analysis: Sunak’s asylum backlog claim isn’t true – according to the government’s own statistics

It seems the government has shot itself in the foot by misleadingly focusing on a specific promise made by the PM which hasn’t quite been met.

Read here

Speaking to journalists this morning, the prime minister’s spokesperson said the legacy backlog of asylum claims has, in fact, been cleared as promised because all cases have been reviewed, and the remaining ones simply “require additional work”.

The spokesperson said: “We committed to clearing the backlog, that is what the government has done. We are being very transparent about what that entails.

“We have processed all of those cases and indeed gone further than the original commitment. We’re up to 112,000 decisions made overall.

“As a result of that process, there are a small minority of cases which are complex and which, because of our rigorous standards, require further work.

“But nonetheless, it is a significant piece of work by Home Office officials to process such huge numbers in a short period of time while retaining our rigorous safety standard.”

The government has said that the remaining 4,537 more complex cases typically involve “asylum seekers presenting as children – where age verification is taking place; those with serious medical issues; or those with suspected past convictions, where checks may reveal criminality that would bar asylum”.

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Home Secretary discusses government’s work to process asylum claims

However, the CEO of the Refugee Council, Enver Solomon, said it is “misleading for the government to claim that the legacy backlog has been cleared as there are thousands still waiting for a decision”.

And Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper labelled the claim that the backlog has been cleared “totally false”.

She told broadcasters: “They made a whole series of promises about clearing the asylum backlog and they haven’t delivered them.

“Instead, the asylum backlog is still nearly 100,000 cases, and we’ve still got thousands of people, record numbers of people in asylum hotels. So, the government’s just failing on all counts.”

The policy is central to government plans to stop small boat crossings
Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson has rejected accusations that the government has made “misleading” claims

The prime minister’s spokesperson was also asked about an apparent suggestion from Home Secretary James Cleverly on LBC radio this morning that the government’s goal is to stop small boat crossings entirely in 2024.

Downing Street said they are “not going to set out a deadline”, but said the Rwanda bill – that is due to return to the Commons “this month” – is a “key part” of stopping small boat crossings.

Mr Cleverly did not make the suggestion that boats would be stopped this year elsewhere, and a source close to him said: “Tackling illegal migration is by virtue of what it is, a product of criminal people smuggling gangs, should always be a mission to zero, and as quickly as possible.

“We’ll do what it takes, using a whole range of tactics to get to zero to break the business model of these ruthless smugglers who don’t care if people live or die, just as long as they pay.”

It comes after Mr Sunak admitted to parliament’s liaison committee just before Christmas there is no “firm date” to stop small boat crossings entirely.

Up until today, there had been fears for months that the prime minister’s target would not be achieved, and in an appearance before the Commons Liaison Committee in December, the prime minister was unable to say when the remaining overall backlog of asylum claims would be cleared.

In February last year, the Home Office said thousands of asylum seekers would be sent questionnaires which could be used to speed up a decision on their claims, and about 12,000 people from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen, who had applied for asylum in the UK and were waiting for a decision, were understood to be eligible under the policy.

In June, the National Audit Office (NAO) said efforts to clear the backlog needed to significantly increase to clear the backlog and questioned whether the plans were sustainable.

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The spending watchdog also estimated £3.6bn was spent on asylum support in 2022-23, which amounted to almost double the previous year.

More caseworkers had been tasked with processing applications, which the Home Office has previously said was “tripling productivity to ensure more illegal migrants are returned to their country of origin, quicker”.

But the department’s top civil servant, Sir Matthew Rycroft, revealed in a letter to MPs that just 1,182 migrants who had crossed the Channel had been returned to their home country since 2020, out of a total of more than 111,800 who arrived in that time period.

The majority of those returned were from Albania, with whom the UK has a returns agreement.

Home Secretary James Cleverly heads to Rwanda to sign new asylum treaty | Politics News

James Cleverly is travelling to Rwanda to sign a new treaty for the government’s asylum plan.

It is part of Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s mission to make the deal to send migrants there legally watertight following the Supreme Court’s ruling against the scheme.

In the wake of the judgement on 15 November the government insisted it had been working on contingency measures and promised a treaty with Rwanda within days, along with emergency legislation in parliament.

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Mr Cleverly said Rwanda “cares deeply about the rights of refugees” and he looks forward to meeting counterparts and signing the deal.

The home secretary said: “We are clear that Rwanda is a safe country, and we are working at pace to move forward with this partnership to stop the boats and save lives.

“The Supreme Court recognised that changes may be delivered in future to address the conclusions they reached – and that is what we have set out to do together, with this new, internationally recognised treaty agreement.

“Rwanda cares deeply about the rights of refugees, and I look forward to meeting with counterparts to sign this agreement and further discuss how we work together to tackle the global challenge of illegal migration.”

There has been speculation Rwanda is pushing to get more money on top of the £140m already committed to the scheme.

The Sunday Times reported Kigali will be given a £15m top-up payment to agree fresh terms on its agreement with the UK.

Read more:
What is the government’s Rwanda plan and what will they do next?

Rwanda map

Mr Sunak met Rwanda’s President Paul Kagame on the sidelines of the COP28 climate talks in Dubai on Friday, but declined afterwards to say how much more money he would spend to make the scheme a success.

Downing Street insisted there had been no demand for extra money from Rwanda, with the prime minister’s official spokesman saying: “Certainly I don’t recognise that figure of £15m, there’s been no request for additional funding for the treaty made by Rwanda, or not offered by the UK government.”

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Cleverly announces immigration plan

It comes after Mr Cleverly laid out his five-point plan to cut immigration, which included banning care workers from bringing their families over to the UK and raising the minimum salary required for a skilled worker visa.

Under his five-point plan, Mr Cleverly said he will:

• Stop health and care workers bringing their dependants to the UK;

• Increase the skilled worker earnings threshold by a third to £38,700, in line with the median full-time wage;

• Scrap “cut-price” labour by stopping shortage occupations being able to pay 20% less than the going rate and reforming the shortage occupation list;

• Raise the minimum income for family visas to £38,700 from £26,200 from next spring; and

• Ensure the Migration Advisory Committee reviews the graduate immigration route to prevent abuse.

He said the government would also increase the health surcharge this year by 66%, from £624 to £1,035.

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Mr Cleverly said around 120,000 dependants accompanied 100,000 care workers in the year up to September.

“In total, this package, plus our reduction in students dependants will mean around 300,000 fewer people will come in future years than have come to the UK last year,” he told MPs.

Syrian asylum seeker attempted to take his own life during long wait for Home Office decision | Politics News

An asylum seeker who escaped to the UK after five years of torture in a Syrian prison has told Sky News he was so traumatised by the long wait for a Home Office decision on his case he attempted to take his own life. 

It comes as new government figures show there are more than 125,000 outstanding asylum claims – a slight reduction since the summer but still higher than this time last year.

Omar’s arms are riddled with 250 shotgun pellets, which causes him constant pain.

X ray showing bullet pellets
X-ray showing Omar’s arm riddled with shotgun pellets

Bullet pellets

He was fired on by the Syrian army while attending a pro-democracy demonstration in 2012.

Arrested while attempting to seek medical treatment afterwards, he was sent to prison where he said he was regularly tortured.

“They took me underground and started beating me, beating me and torturing me,” Omar said. “They had pipes, thick water pipes, and they used those pipes to beat me with.

“They knew my hands and arms were hurt already and they were deliberately hitting where my wounds were. I was blindfolded so I couldn’t see who was torturing me. They handcuffed my hands and hung me up for hours.

“You do not have a name. You’re just a number to them.”

Scars on Omar's chest
Injuries to Omar’s upper torso

We’re not using Omar’s real name or showing his face to protect his family in Syria. He managed to escape from prison after his father borrowed the money to pay a $10,000 bribe.

He fled to the UK and claimed asylum in November 2020. But the long wait for the Home Office to process his asylum claim – two years and four months – took a huge toll on his mental health. Last August, six months before the decision was finally made, he attempted to take his own life.

“I was so disappointed,” he said. “I was under the impression that Great Britain is great. And if I got to Great Britain, that I would not face injustice. But it wasn’t like that.

“For two years, they didn’t tell me they were not going to grant me asylum. And that was torture.”

Omar certainly isn’t alone.

An NHS study found 61% of those seeking asylum are suffering from serious mental distress, and they are five times more likely to suffer from mental health conditions than the wider population.

The latest Home Office figures, published this week, showed 125,173 cases were awaiting a decision at the end of September, a figure which is down 7% on the total this June, but is still up 7% compared with this time last year. 39,668 people have been on the list since before June 2022, well over a year.

A central part of the government’s strategy to reduce the future backlog is to discourage most asylum seekers from coming to the UK at all, with the threat of deportation to Rwanda.

While that has been blocked by the recent Supreme Court ruling – for now – the prime minister is determined to push ahead with the plan.

He has promised a new legally binding treaty with Rwanda to attempt to ease the judges’ concerns about claimants being sent home, and pledged to bring forward emergency legislation to ask parliament to confirm it believes Rwanda is a ‘safe country’. This could potentially happen as soon as next week.

Charities such as the Refugee Council are concerned the uncertainty of the situation for current asylum seekers makes their mental health even worse.

Sarah Temple-Smith, a manager at the Refugee Council’s Youth Therapy Project.

“It adds to the feeling of being destabilised, and the lack of hope for the future,” said Sarah Temple-Smith, a manager at the Refugee Council’s Youth Therapy Project.

“The waiting is particularly hard for them. We know that a sense of powerlessness, a lack of autonomy is linked very strongly to mental illness – mental disorder, clinical depression, other things, even schizophrenia

“I’ve had many clients who have been through terrible things – including being forced onto small boats at gunpoint and seeing other people drown – who’ve actually said that the waiting and not knowing is a worse torture than what they’ve been through. It sounds extraordinary, but I’ve heard it many times.”

Omar found out earlier this year that his asylum claim has been rejected. He has been granted the temporary right to remain in the UK for two years – but is unable to bring his family over.

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“I know now that human rights are a big lie,” he said. “Can anybody live without his family, his children and wife? It’s not easy. Sometimes I think it would just be better for me to go back to Syria, where I would be executed.”

A spokesperson from the Home Office said: “We take the welfare of those in our care extremely seriously and at every stage in the asylum process – from initial arrival, to any potential relocations – our approach is to ensure that the needs and vulnerabilities of asylum seekers are identified and considered including those related to mental health and trauma.

“We are on track to clear the legacy asylum backlog by the end of 2023, which has reduced by more than 60% since the start of November 2022, down by over 59,000 cases.”

The legacy asylum backlog refers to claims made before June 28, 2022, when the Nationality and Borders Act – which includes the Rwanda legislation – was initially tabled.

While the rate of decision-making has improved for the legacy cases, the latest statistics also show the number of more recent claims continue to increase – up 85,505 at the end of September, from 66,176 in the last set of government figures released at the end of June.

Anyone feeling emotionally distressed or suicidal can call Samaritans for help on 116 123 or email in the UK. In the US, call the Samaritans branch in your area or 1 (800) 273-TALK.

Rwanda ‘disappointed’ at Supreme Court verdict on UK asylum scheme | UK News

Rwanda’s government has attacked what it called a “disappointing” verdict from the UK’s top court which ruled a scheme to deport asylum seekers to the African country was unlawful.

The UK government suffered a major setback over its Rwanda policy when the plan was dismissed by the Supreme Court on Wednesday.

But a spokesperson for Rwanda’s government rejected the idea the East African nation was unsafe for refugees, and argued there was “nothing wrong” with how it processes asylum claims.

Follow live: Cleverly makes sly digs at Braverman in first major speech – politics latest

Spokesperson Yolande Makolo told Sky News the judgment had been based on “hypocritical” and “dishonest” assessments by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR).

Asked what she thought of the verdict, she said: “It’s ultimately a decision for the UK judicial system. It’s disappointing – we have a really good record of hosting and welcoming migrants and refugees in this country.”

Rwanda remains “committed” to the partnership and is “ready” to receive migrants, she said.

The Supreme Court had said in its unanimous judgment that those sent to Rwanda would be at “real risk” of being returned home, whether their grounds to claim asylum were justified or not – breaching international law.

Sky’s Mark Austin pressed Ms Makolo on this, to which she said the court had been referring to the risk of refoulement – the forcible return of refugees or asylum seekers to a country where they could be subjected to persecution – and that this was based on “hypocritical criticism from the UNHCR”.

She said Rwanda had worked with the UNHCR for a “long time” and had not refouled anyone.

Rwanda government spokesperson Yolande Makolo
Rwanda government spokesperson Yolande Makolo

Austin then asked about another issue brought up by the Supreme Court, which said there had been an instance of Rwanda’s directorate-general of immigration dismissing 8% of claims without any written reason or right of appeal.

Ms Makolo said these were again examples given by the UNHCR that were “either dishonest or do not have the full context”.

She added that “any deficiencies they have found have been corrected since last year”.

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Supreme Court rules Rwanda plan unlawful

Read more:
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Analysis: PM’s suggestion after Rwanda ruling is disingenuous

The spokesperson said she thought the Supreme Court ruling was “political”, telling Austin: “It was not Rwanda being judged. Rwanda is not in the dock.”

Despite the setback, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has vowed to push ahead with the policy and suggested the UK could bring forward legislation that would declare Rwanda a “safe” country.

Migration: Backlog of asylum cases in UK hits record high, Home Office figures show | Politics News

The backlog of asylum cases in the UK has hit a new record high, according to Home Office figures.

A total of 175,457 people were waiting for an initial decision on an asylum application in the UK at the end of June 2023, up 44% at the end of June 2022 and the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

The number of people waiting more than six months for an initial decision stood at 139,961 at the end of June, up 57% year-on-year from 89,231 and another record high.

There has also been a sharp rise in the number of worker visas issued in the past year compared to the previous 12 months.

Read more:
People left destitute after arriving on skilled worker visas only to find there’s no job

The new statistics published by the Home Office also show a 63% rise in the number of people coming to the UK on work visas in the year to June 2023, compared to the year to June 2022 – meaning 538,887 arrived to work in the past year.

The number of study visas issued is up 34% to 657,208. Both these figures include dependents brought into the UK on the programmes alongside the main visa holder.

This means that 208,295 more people came to the UK on work visas in the 12 months to June 2023 and 165,968 more people entered on study visas.

It comes despite a Tory 2019 manifesto commitment to “bring overall numbers down”.

The government has changed the law to mean that, from January 2024, people on student visas will no longer be able to bring dependents with them.

A sizeable proportion of those entering on work visas are health and care workers, for whom the government created a new pathway in 2020.

Dame Priti Patel takes aim at government’s ‘alarming and staggering lack of clarity’ over plans to house asylum seekers at Essex RAF base | Politics News

Former home secretary Dame Priti Patel has accused her former department of being “evasive” and “secretive” over how long it plans to use a former RAF base to house asylum seekers.

In a letter to her successor Suella Braverman and the immigration minister, Robert Jenrick, earlier on Monday, Dame Priti wrote that the “lack of clarity” over how long the government plans to house asylum seekers at the former base in Wethersfield, Essex, “has been alarming and staggering”.

The site near Dame Priti’s Witham constituency has been earmarked to house 1,700 asylum seekers by the autumn as part of plans to reduce spending on hotels, with the first residents having arrived in July.

RAF Wethersfield is one of a number of former military sites earmarked for housing asylum seekers, alongside the Bibby Stockholm barge which was evacuated on Friday after legionella bacteria was found in the water supply.

(Left-right) Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak, Carrie Johnson and Home Secretary Priti Patel watch as Prime Minister Boris Johnson delivers his keynote speech at the Conservative Party Conference in Manchester. Picture date: Wednesday October 6, 2021.
Dame Priti suggested Mr Sunak’s government was being ‘secretive about its intentions’

In the letter posted to X, formerly Twitter, the former home secretary said that when it was announced on 29 March that the site would be used for asylum seekers, the length of time it would be used was not stated.

She said reports the site would need to be used for five years to achieve value for money for the taxpayer was “concerning”, and said “no clarity has been provided” in subsequent discussions between Home Office officials and local partners.

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Sky News goes inside asylum camps

Citing three written parliamentary questions on the topic submitted back in June, she said the failure to provide direct answers “gives the impressions the Home Office is being evasive” and “suggests that the government is being secretive about its intentions”.

She added: “Clear answers now need to be provided by the Home Office and the government must be transparent rather than evasive. The lack of clarity has been alarming and staggering.”

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A Home Office spokesman said: “Delivering accommodation on surplus military sites will provide cheaper and more orderly, suitable accommodation for those arriving in small boats whilst helping to reduce the use of hotels.

“These accommodation sites will house asylum seekers in basic, safe and secure accommodation as they await a decision on their claim.

“In the case of Wethersfield, the Home Office has obtained planning permission to use the site for 12 months.

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“We understand the concerns of local communities and will work closely with councils and key partners to manage the impact of using these sites, including liaising with local police to make sure appropriate arrangements are in place.”

The department said it intended to reply to Dame Priti’s letter to the home secretary “in due course”.