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The cost of Britain’s asylum system has almost doubled to almost £4bn in the past year, official figures show, showing a huge increase linked to a record backlog in the processing of applications.

Figures released by the Home Office on Thursday showed that the cost reached 3.96 billion pounds in the 12 months to the end of June 2023, up from 2.12 billion pounds in the same period last year and more than six times the 2018 figure of 631 million pounds. Asylum cases began to backlog.

The number of asylum cases awaiting an initial decision jumped to 134,046 (involving 175,457 people), a 35 percent increase over the same period last year.

The latest figures underscore the scale of the challenge Prime Minister Rishi Sunak faces in delivering on promises to tackle the asylum backlog and stop small boats from crossing the English Channel.

Hotels are spending more than £6m a day due to the backlog of orders, according to the government. To move asylum seekers from hotels, the government has recently begun investing heavily in rebuilding an abandoned military base and former prison, leasing a floating barge and expanding detention capacity.

The average number of applications completed per caseworker per month in the 12 months ended June was 1.9, down from 3 a year earlier and a far cry from the 2016 high of 6.7.

Peter Walsh, a senior fellow at the Oxford Immigration Observatory think tank, noted that the cost of processing each case was more than £20,000, the highest in more than a decade.

“While the government allows the backlog of asylum cases to grow, there will inevitably be an increase in costs to the UK taxpayer. It is also important to note that this expansion is not being driven primarily by people arriving by boat, in the latest Home Office figures, These people make up only a third of the backlog,” he added, questioning the government’s disproportionate focus on Channel crossing.

The figures show that just under half (40,386) of the 97,390 new asylum claims in the 12-month period came from people entering the UK by boat.

The Home Office said most asylum claims came from people who arrived in the country on temporary visas, via other irregular routes, including trucks or containers, or who entered the country with forged documents.

The figures also raise questions about the government’s ability to quickly deport people it deems unacceptable for asylum – one of the purposes behind the Illegal Immigration Bill passed by parliament last month. The bill bars anyone who arrives in the country without prior permission from applying for asylum and places a legal duty on the Home Secretary to detain and deport them.

Between January 2021, when the updated post-Brexit inadmissibility rules came into effect, and June 30 this year, a total of 60,595 asylum applicants were determined to be considered on the grounds of inadmissibility.

Of those, 29,258 received “notices of intent” telling them they were considering deportation, but only 23 were deported.

While the total number of deportations increased by 29 per cent to 4,193 in the year ending March 2023, the majority (72 per cent) were foreign criminals. About half of them are EU nationals.

The opposition Labor Party said that at the current rate of deportations, the government would need “by 2036” to deport all failed asylum seekers on the list – excluding those who arrived since June 2022.

Separately, data released by the UK Department of Work and Pensions showed that the number of foreigners entering the UK to work or study in the year to the end of June hit a record high, most of them from non-EU countries.

Published figures show the number of overseas adults registered with a National Insurance number has risen by a quarter in the past 12 months to 1.1 million, up from 880,000 the previous time and the most since records began in 2002 highest level.

The surge in successful applications mirrors a sharp increase in work and student visas, which has led to a record 606,000 net migration to the UK in 2022, despite the Conservative prime minister’s pledge to reduce net migration. All overseas nationals who want to work or study in the UK must obtain a National Insurance Number.

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