Updates, commentary, training and advice on immigration and asylum law
Latest statistics show huge increase in rejections of late EU settlement scheme applications, no evidence that Rwanda has impacted Channel crossings
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It has been a bumper day for statistics, as the Office for National Statistics and the Home Office have published their latest quarterly figures covering all aspects of immigration and asylum. Contrary to the government’s line that their Rwanda deal and Illegal Migration Act are reducing small boat crossings, we can see that actually these are up once Albanians are excluded from the data, following their unusually high numbers last year. People coming to the UK as workers are at record levels, predominantly because of those working in the health and social care sector. A new backlog of change of conditions applications is starting to emerge. A change to treatment of late applications to the EU settlement scheme has already resulted in huge increase in rejections on validity grounds. Our full summary of some of the data is below.
The latest published Home Office statistics cover the period up to the end of September 2023. There is a worrying increase in the number of people per boat crossing the Channel, up from 37 to 48 in the year ending September 2023. In 2018 it was seven people per boat. Yesterday two people tragically died in the Channel and 57 others were rescued after a boat got into difficulty. As more and more people are crammed into these boats the risk will only increase.
The government has repeatedly claimed that small boat crossings are down as a result of their interventions, including the Rwanda plan and the Illegal Migration Act 2023. As we can see from the below, the figures are higher than last year once you remove Albanians from the data, so the reduction is only among this group and there is no evidence that anyone else has been deterred from coming here.
Due to a lack of safe alternatives, the main nationalities of those making the crossing are Afghans, Syrian, Iraqis and Iranians.
It is also notable that Turkey nationals are now the fourth highest making the Channel crossing with 2,909 people arriving via that route in the year ending September 2023. The grant rate for initial decisions on asylum claims by Turkish people is 89%. Less than two weeks ago the Telegraph reported that the Home Office intended to add Turkey to the list of safe countries. It is difficult to see how that could be a sustainable decision.
In the year ending September 2023 there were 17,316 asylum applications that were deemed withdrawn. In the previous year the figure was 4,260. Withdrawn asylum claims in the period July to September 2023 included 198 Afghans (grant rate 99%), 85 Syrians (grant rate 99%), 61 Eritreans (grant rate 100%) and 134 Iranians (grant rate 86%). The Home Office should explain what has happened to these people.
The explanation given is: “Withdrawn claims occur for a number of reasons, including where someone has already left the UK before their claim was considered, where they fail to attend their asylum interview, or they choose to or pursue another application for permission to stay”. There is no reason to believe that any of these hundreds of refugees would have left the UK, nor that they pursued a lesser form of leave than refugee status.
Seemingly undeterred by the UK’s belief that Rwanda is a safe country, 16 Rwandans have claimed asylum in the UK since the beginning of 2023 and one person has been granted asylum.
The inadmissibility process remains a dysfunctional waste of time. Of 69,645 people identified for consideration of inadmissibility, 31,910 were issued with a notice of intent. Of those 83 were deemed inadmissible and 23 were removed. Those removals were to Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. No removals have taken place since the period October to December 2022 when there was one such removal. There is nowhere to send people and the sooner the entire process is scrapped the better.
The increase continues to be driven by health and social care workers. This table is quite useful in showing where people are coming from and what they are doing:
Nigerian, Indian and Zimbabwean nationals together represented 62% of visas granted to work in ‘Care workers and home carer’ occupations.
For Global Talent visas, there has been a 58% increase for the year ending September 2023, to 4,406 grants. Innovator Founder visas have just over doubled, to 520. Start up visa grants are also up, by 78 or 22% to 440, although the route has now closed as of July 2023. The number of Overseas Domestic Worker visas granted rose by 9% in the last year, to 19,879 grants.
No recourse to public funds
We are seeing the start of a new concerning backlog, this one relates to change of conditions applications which are made where people need access to public funds, for example because of destitution and/or the needs of a child. The average days to a decision on a change of conditions application is currently 36, which is a reduction from 48 for the same period in 2022. But that was with one application still pending that quarter, whereas there were almost 400 still waiting for a decision at the end of September 2023.
The success rate for these applications remains fairly high, at 76%.
The data on gender shows that the no recourse to public funds restriction continues to overwhelmingly affect women, many of whom are single mothers. In the period July to September 2023 of the 1,210 change of conditions applications made, 779 (64%) of those were by women.
Detention and returns
These figures need to be used with a certain amount of caution due to a change in the use of detention for people arriving across the Channel, and the distortion of figures due to the targetting of Albanians.
On detention, there is a 31% decrease in the number of people being detained, however this is due to a change in process as people arriving via the Channel are being processed in Manston instead of immigration removal centres. This change is also partly responsible for the increase in the average amount of time that people are held in immigration detention, with a large proportion (41%) of people now detained for 8 to 28 days.
Most people (68%) leave detention because they are granted bail, mostly due to an asylum application. 27% are removed from the UK, an increase from 18% the year before, mostly driven by Albanian returns. After Albanians (31%, 5,147), the highest nationality of people being detained are Indian (9%, 1,449).
Returns of foreign national offenders are up 19% compared to the previous year (to September 2022) but this is mainly due to an increase in removal of Albanians by 42%. Most of the top ten countries the UK is returning foreign national offenders to are in the EU. The countries are: Albania (1,183 people), Romania (785), Poland (261), Lithuania (256), Bulgaria (97), Latvia (73), Portugal (62), Slovakia (59), Vietnam (50) and Italy (46).
It is mostly Romanian nationals who are being refused entry on arrival to the UK with a huge 6,965 for the year ending September 2023, compared to second place Bulgaria with 1,698. A 46% increase in refusals at the border for people from East Timor (Timor-Leste) no doubt contributed to their being added to the list of countries whose nationals require a visa to travel to the UK as a visitor in July.
EU Settlement Scheme
As the Home Office has recently made substantial changes to the way they process late applications to the EU Settlement Scheme, it will be useful to monitor the impact of this in the data. This says that since 1 July 2021 up to the end of September 2023, 1,520,240 were received. Of those, 560,570 (or 37%) are described as late applications.
The most recent period of July to September 2023 saw 54,880 late applications. This is the period covering when the changes were made to treatment of late applications which risk them being treated as invalid. A separate figure is given for invalid applications. In September 2023 this was 13,930, compared to the average from July 2022 to June 2023 which was 1,730 per month. This is a 705% increase in application rejections. The odds of them all being ‘spurious’ which was the reason given by the government for the change, seems unlikely but we will obviously be hearing a lot more on this issue as litigation seems inevitable.
Leave granted for family reasons has also seen a large increase, having over doubled in the year ending September 2023, to 82,395. In the five years prior to Covid-19 the yearly average was around 42,000 and it is speculated that the increase may partly be a backlog from pandemic.
Net migration figures from the Office for National Statistics
The Office for National Statistics has published data on long term international migration to June 2023. They have reported that levels of non-EU nationals who are emigrating is increasing, by 72,000 compared with the year ending June 2022. Their evidence suggests that this is mainly driven by people on student visas leaving and that suggests a continuing rise in emigration due to a rise in non-EU students in the two years before June 2023. They are predicting a drop in net migration next year.
The usual suspects are complaining about the high number of work visas that are being granted but without a sustained period of investment into the health and social care sector that need is not going to be filled within the UK, so what is the alternative? As far as asylum is concerned, the government’s line that their various schemes are impacting on small boat arrivals will not hold for much longer. Similarly, I suspect that we will start finding out soon if all of these late applications to the EU settlement scheme are truly ‘spurious’.