Processing system is ‘catastrophic’

Immigration minister Beverley Hughes has admitted that the asylum
system has been catastrophic in recent years and that the
government’s inability to deal with the backlog of asylum
applications in the UK has been attracting asylum seekers to the

Giving evidence to the home affairs select committee on the asylum
applications process, Hughes said the system had been described as
“one of catastrophe”, with endless delays resulting from a backlog
of claims.

Hughes admitted that, although the situation had “improved out of
all recognition from that disastrously low point”, problems had not
been completely cleared.

Hughes admitted Britain might be perceived as being a “soft touch”
but insisted that would not be borne out in reality.

Following home secretary David Blunkett’s recent proposal for
transit camps to hold asylum seekers outside the EU while their
claims were being processed, Hughes said there had been “dialogue
with various countries interested in being potential sites” and
pilot schemes could be running by the end of the year.

Chairperson of the Association of Directors of Social Services
asylum seeker task force Peter Gilroy, who also gave evidence to
the committee this week, said that a “lot of operational problems”
in the asylum system would be resolved if all new applicants were

He agreed with former shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe that
detention at that point would work if it was possible to create a
fast system where people were “not left languishing in centres”.

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