Scotland

Asylum claim targets 'being missed by eight weeks'

asylum seekers Image copyright Getty Images

The Home Office is failing to meet its own target for processing certain asylum claims by an average of eight weeks, BBC Scotland has learned.

Charities say delays are leaving vulnerable people facing homelessness.

UK government figures show it missed its five-day target for asylum seekers who submit new evidence in 95% of cases.

The Home Office has said it offers financial support to people who have to wait more than five days.

The delay is affecting people who have submitted new evidence supporting their case after their first claim was refused.

The Home Office website says a decision will usually be reached within five working days. But the official figures show the average wait in 2018 was 62 days.

Asylum seeker Grace, who came to UK from Africa several years ago and now lives in Glasgow, says she has been told she must wait three months for an appointment.

She told the BBC her sexuality means it is not safe for her to return home and, while her new claim is being processed, she has to rely on the British Red Cross and food banks for support.

Image caption Asylum seeker Grace says she must wait three months for an appointment

She said: "It's a nightmare. I'm going to struggle to survive up to that time.

"I don't know what's going to happen next. It's a destitute life. You don't get anything, you don't have the support, you don't have anyone to turn to unless you go to charitable organisations."

Campaigners say other changes to the application system have caused further problems.

Until 2015, asylum seekers in Scotland could submit new evidence - known as further submissions - in Glasgow.

'Broken system'

Now they have to travel 220 miles to a centre in Liverpool - at their own expense in all but "exceptional cases".

Charities who help asylum seekers insist the system it is not working.

Graham O'Neill, policy manger of the Scottish Refugee Council, told BBC Scotland he would like to be shocked by the Home Office figures but was not.

Image caption People submitting new evidence must now travel to a centre in Liverpool

He said: "They really reflect our clients' experiences over a number of years.

"We have, as the figures show, extensive delays in people getting an appointment to go to Liverpool to put their papers in.

"And then we have a very long time for people to get a decision on those papers.

"All the while, people are at risk or are homeless. It shows a broken system."

Image caption The Scottish Refugee Council's Graham O'Neill says vulnerable people are being put at risk

Grace said she was "begging for help" for people whose voices were not being heard.

She added: "There are all these people who are going through more than me. People are really, really struggling with this asylum process."

The Home Office told the BBC that it aims to resolve all new submissions as quickly as possible but "some cases are complex and it's our duty to thoroughly investigate all claims".

A spokesman added: "If an individual is deemed destitute, emergency appointments are available to lodge further submissions.

"We also provide free accommodation and a weekly cash allowance whilst their claim is being considered."