The UK government has announced that around 12,000 asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria, and Yemen will have their claims processed without face-to-face interviews.
Instead, they will be sent a ten-page questionnaire to complete and return within 20 working days.
The questionnaire will be used for those who applied before July 2022, and officials insist that security checks will still be carried out as normal.
The Home Office hopes that the questionnaire will help end the asylum backlog, which currently stands at 92,601 initial asylum claims, as of June 2022. Applicants from these five countries typically have a high acceptance rate of around 95%.
However, some campaigners have criticised the move, calling it “clumsy” and warning that asylum seekers may be required to complete the form in English.
The Refugee Council’s Chief Executive, Enver Solomon, stated that reducing the backlog is “welcome,” but added that the process must be “well thought-out” and “person-centred,” with a more ambitious and workable approach.
Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, also criticised the government, saying that it was “damning” that the Home Office had not acted sooner, given that Labour had called for the fast-tracking of cases, including for safe countries like Albania, for months.
Cooper also pointed out that the asylum backlog had increased by 50% since UK PM Rishi Sunak promised to clear it.
The Home Office has vowed to withdraw applications that fail to return the questionnaire without a reasonable explanation.
A letter addressed to “stakeholders” published on Twitter by Sky News set out the plans, and officials say that the questionnaire will allow them to process applications more quickly.
The latest official data on the asylum backlog is expected to be published on Thursday.