Press Story

Today’s quarterly immigration statistics from the Home Office reveal that the number of people in the asylum backlog at the end of June 2023 increased to just over 175,000. While the government has reduced the number of cases in the legacy backlog, this has been offset by new cases entering the asylum system.

Further analysis by IPPR highlights that:

  • The number of withdrawal decisions has soared in the first half of the year, making up 47% of all initial asylum decisions. This suggests that the backlog is being driven down in large part by withdrawals, rather than substantive decisions. This risks pushing people underground and into the informal economy, while creating more work for the Home Office in the long run as people make fresh asylum claims.

  • The numbers of people arriving through the UK’s resettlement schemes continues at an extremely low rate. In the first half of the year, only 101 people were resettled through the different pathways of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme. In the same period, 1,474 Afghans were detected arriving in the UK on small boats.

  • Even if the government manages to eliminate the ‘legacy backlog’ of asylum applications, the new Illegal Migration Act could create a growing ‘perma-backlog’ of people trapped in limbo in the UK, who cannot be removed and whose claims cannot be processed.

Responding to the statistics, Marley Morris, IPPR associate director for migration, trade and communities, said:

“The government is still far-off from getting on top of the asylum backlog. While the Home Office is bringing down the ‘legacy backlog’ of older cases, this is being offset by new applications from recent arrivals.

“Moreover, many of the most recent decisions by the Home Office are withdrawals rather than grants or refusals. In the long run, this could backfire on the government, as people whose applications are withdrawn end up being pushed underground or make fresh asylum claims.

“Once the government implements the Illegal Migration Act, this could make matters even worse. Even if the Rwanda scheme is ruled to be lawful by the Supreme Court, it is likely that the number of arrivals will outpace the number of removals, creating a growing ‘perma-backlog’ of asylum seekers trapped in limbo. This could cost the Home Office billions each year.”


Available for interview: 

  • Marley Morris, associate director for migration at IPPR

  • Amreen Qureshi, research fellow at IPPR


Liam Evans, Senior Digital and Media Officer: 07419 365334

David Wastell, Director of News and Communications: 07921 403651


  1. IPPR’s research into the current situation with the UK’s asylum system can be found here:

  2. IPPR’s research into warming public attitudes to immigration can be found here:

  3. IPPR’s research into the rise in Channel crossings can be found here:

  4. IPPR is the UK’s pre-eminent progressive think tank. With more than 40 staff in offices in London, Manchester, Newcastle and Edinburgh, IPPR is Britain’s only national think tank with a truly national presence.