Immigration is a gift to every jaded journalist in post-factual Brexit Britain.

Take some meaningless Home Office statistics from 2004 to 2015, season with quotes from xenophobic mouthpieces and sprinkle over cheap lines about bogus asylum seekers exploiting the UK’s soft-touch immigration system.

Hey-presto: that’s a front-page news story. In The Times.

Buried in the mid-section of the article is what reads like a distinctly lawyered paragraph acknowledging that there are entirely legitimate reasons why persons (such as trafficking victims or torture survivors) don’t immediately seek assistance from the Home Office.

But the damage is already done. And articles like this do little more than stoke the bush-fire of anti-immigration zeal.

As Anna Musgrave from the Refugee Council explained to the Evening Standard:

It’s misguided to believe that asylum claims which aren’t made immediately are somehow invalid.

It’s not just that story is filled with flawed assumptions about asylum claims. It’s not just that the UK takes in under 1% of the world’s refugees, it’s not even that it contains not one word from a refugee or asylum seeker.

There’s something else the media isn’t telling you.

Since 2003 (ie. before the period of the recent statistics) the Home Office has had legal powers to significantly reduce false asylum claims.

If the Home Office conclude that a claim is false, they can certify the claim as “clearly unfounded”. The person making the claim can only appeal against the refusal of such a claim if they leave the UK. A similar power is available to deal with human rights claims by “foreign criminals”. [1]

Clearly false claims should be certified using this power and the claimants removed. They do not “clog” up the system, so long as the certification decision is fair and reasonable, and if the Home Office actually remove them.

The problem is that the Home Office does not use this power effectively or sensibly. I have seen strong claims get certified and terribly weak ones given appeal rights. None of this should come as a surprise if gap-year students are making decisions.

There are also appalling delays. For all Theresa May’s tough talk on “foreign criminals” exploiting human rights legislation to remain in the UK illegally, there are many cases where inexcusable Home Office delays have made it impossible to deport someone.

Only recently I wrote about the case of a Colombian woman convicted of a serious drug offence who was sentenced to 8 years in prison. After her release, the Home Office did nothing for 9 years. They ultimately failed in their bid to deport her. This represents an enormous waste of taxpayer’s money on incompetent, ineffective and unaccountable bureaucracy.

The Times gets there eventually, acknowledging, by the foot of the article:

Overall, the number of cases waiting for a decision of any kind has doubled between 2010 and 2015 from 11,000 to 26,000.

The. System. Has. Crashed.

That, more than anything, is what produces unfair and illogical outcomes.

[1] Sections 94 and 94B of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

Posted by Ben Amunwa

Founder and editor of Lawmostly.com. Ben is a commercial and public law barrister with The 36 Group. He gives expert legal advice on employment, public law and commercial disputes to a wide range of clients.


  1. Benjaminwilliams 16 August 2016 at 4:19 am

    Slightly off your point, but in my view Ben we are doing things the wrong way round – many asylum claims in the UK (but certainly not all) always have been and are always likely to be unfounded – an often hopeless attempt by an immigrant to secure residency in the UK. It poses many more problems than it solves regarding encouraging trafficking, exploitation, danger and death en route. We need to be looking much more at working with the UNHCR to determine asylum claims at countries of origin, taking a fair quota of refugees, and helping to pay for their safe journey to the UK.


    1. Thanks Ben. Looking at the most recent Home Office stats, the overall grant rate is 41%. This rises when you take into account those who are granted asylum on appeal (with previous figures around 45%). The majority of these are ‘late’ in-country claims. While I think that there should be more efforts to assist UNHCR re-settlement schemes, the stats suggest that a relatively high number of claims made in the UK are genuine.


      1. Benjaminwilliams 16 August 2016 at 8:41 pm

        That’s still in my view a lot of failed claims Ben. Personally I think the resources we spend on our in country applications and appeal processes could go further on country of origin claims and assistance. I think it would discourage criminal trafficking, and could help more people who are genuinely in need of Convention protection, but who maybe can’t afford to pay an agent to get them here.

  2. Overseas re-settlement programmes are a key part of the current government strategy for these reasons. But I think that another parallel strategy that could reduce the problem of false claims is to ensure that the UK asylum system is made more efficient. Slow, ineffective and arbitrary procedures worsens the problem.


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