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UK's capacity to meet commitment to Syrian refugees in doubt

30 October 2015

The Home Affairs Select Committee publishes a commentary on immigration statistics produced by the Home Office Immigration Directorates for the second quarter of 2015.


The Committee made the following conclusions:

Syrian refugees

  • We welcome the Prime Minister's commitment made on 7 September 2015 to resettle 20,000 Syrians before the end of this Parliament.
  • The Government should do more to explore how members of the public can help provide ongoing support, in particular in the provision of housing to refugees which is likely to be one of the bottlenecks on where they will be able to be resettled.

Asylum and immigration caseload

  • We are concerned that over a third of the legacy immigration cases have been found to be duplicates.

Immigration detention

  • The number of asylum seekers and other migrants detained for administrative purposes has increased.
  • The Government should publish the Stephen Shaw review of the immigration detention estate and its response as soon as possible to inform the remaining stages of the Immigration Bill.
  • It is unacceptable that after the Government said it would stop placing children in detention, and there were signs that it was maintaining very low figures throughout 2014, there was then a sudden increase at the beginning of 2015. It should explain the reasons behind this increase in the number of children being detained for immigration purposes, and behind the proportion being held for longer than three days.

100,000 immigration cap

  • An immigration target with an arbitrary figure is difficult to achieve when you simply cannot control the number of people who leave the country and have very limited ability to control migration from EU member states. 
  • The Government should look again at the issue of whether student numbers should be included in that figure.

Immigration backlogs 

  • The current backlog of cases remains at 318,159. There has therefore been an increase between Q1 and Q2. The biggest contributor to the backlog is the Migration Refusal Pool. Clearing the backlogs must be a priority.
  • We are now coming to the end of the £4 million contract awarded to Capita with the view to the Migration Refusal Pool backlog being reduced. We would like a full assessment of this contract before there is any possibility of renewal.

Chair's comments

Rt Hon Keith Vaz MP, Chair of the Committee, said:

"In the last 10 years, the highest number of refugees resettled in the UK in any one year is 1,039 in 2012. The pledge to resettle 4,000 a year is the equivalent of 333 people a month, almost 400% more than the highest recorded figure. This is a huge change in the scale of refugee resettlement undertaken by the UK and we are concerned about our real level of preparedness and ability to increase capacity to manage such numbers at short notice. The Government's continual refusal to tell the Committee how many Syrian refugees have arrived undermines Parliament's ability to scrutinise progress. 

This summer, the refugee crisis reached an unimaginable scale. The generosity of the British public in offers of assistance and even space in their homes has not been accepted by Ministers. This should be reconsidered. Housing is likely to be one of the most difficult issues and it may be that, properly organised and supported, offers of private accommodation will be a helpful, viable and perhaps essential part of the solution.

The current backlog of immigration cases at the Home Office is now a third of a million, greater than the combined populations of Reading and Oxford. To run a credible immigration and asylum system, the Home Office must once and for all tackle the historical backlog of cases and deal with those that arrive in a timely and efficient way. This undermines confidence in the system and should be addressed immediately.

It is a cause for deep worry that the number of children being detained for immigration purposes has increased. No child should be subjected to detention."

Further information

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