Asylum Delays – The Challenge

Danielle Cohen
By Danielle Cohen Immigration Law Solicitor Linkedin
Danielle Cohen has over 20 years of experience as a lawyer and a reputation for offering professional, honest and expert advice.
27 October 2023

On 25 October 2023, we were notified that permission has been granted for Judicial Review to challenge the Home Office delays in asylum decision making. The legal challenge that was brought by Asylum Aid argued that the long delays and the failure to provide reliable timeframes for a decision are unlawful and a breach of Human Rights Law.

As of June 2023, 106,543 asylum seekers have been waiting for more than six months for an initial decision of their UK asylum claim. Some have waited as long as five years. Asylum Aid argued that it places the individuals in immigration limbo with no right to work or claim to vital welfare benefits, poor access to health care and no safe appropriate accommodation.

Asylum Aid argued that the Home Office is acting unlawfully by failing to comply with their obligations to make asylum decisions as soon as possible and to provide reliable timeframes for a decision, amounting to a breach of a person’s human rights. We too have acted for individuals who have suffered as a consequence of not being able to have an asylum interview. However, when challenged in the High Courts, our cases have been settled by consent. In our cases we argued that the ongoing delay to determine the cases is wholly unacceptable and unlawful. It is a well-established principle of public law that where public bodies are entrusted with making a decision of importance to either an individual or a class of individuals, there is an implied duty on that body to make the decision timely without delay. We argued that the delay in implementing or reaching a decision is excessive in our client’s circumstances and whilst we appreciate the restrains caused by the pandemic (where all substantive interviews were suspended as of July 2020) substantive interviews have taken place remotely and the Home Office failed to provide any reason for the delay in booking a substantive interview remotely.

What is the reason for the huge Home Office delays in processing asylum claims?

A report published by the Refugee Council in July 2021 found that the average waiting time for an initial decision on an asylum case is likely to be between one and three years. It stated that the Home Office delays in providing initial decisions were mainly caused by failure by the Home Office to keep up with the number of decisions that needed to be made. The delay may have been caused by COVID19 pandemic but the backlog of asylum seekers decisions is not only due to the pandemic. If you are waiting for your substantive interview, we strongly suggest that you use the time to prepare for the interview because it is an important part of your claim. You may also wish to get your local Member of Parliament involved in your asylum case and you can find out who is your local MP by visiting the website They Work For You and insert your post code. Research briefing through the House of Commons in March 2023 found that the Government accepted that the backlog of asylum decision is too high and its position is that an increased number of asylum applications, the complexity of some of the claims and declining case work productivity have caused the backlog. Some stakeholders and observers suggested the increased number of people awaiting decisions is because of larger inefficiencies within the decision-making process and lack of returns agreements. Academic researchers have highlighted the possible negative mental and physical health consequences of prolonged asylum delays, which results from inactivity and uncertainly over the state of asylum claims. In December 2022 the Prime Minister said that the Government is expected to abolish the backlog of initial asylum decisions by the end of the year.

There are three components to the Government’s plan to reduce the backlog:

  1. Increase the productivity of case worker staff.
  2. Hire additional workers
  3. Streamline the process for certain order applications.