UK government defends claim to have cleared ‘legacy’ asylum backlog

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s government on Tuesday defended its claim that it had met a pledge on processing asylum claims, after opponents cited the government’s own figures as evidence the target had not been met.

Britain is expected to hold an election this year in which immigration policy will be a central campaign issue.

The government on Monday said it had met a pledge made by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak to clear by the end of 2023 a so-called ‘legacy backlog’ of 92,000 asylum claims which were made before a June 2022 change in immigration law.

But the opposition Labour Party disputed the government’s statement, citing official statistics showing 4,537 of those asylum applicants were still awaiting an initial decision over their application as of Dec 28.

Home Secretary James Cleverly told the BBC that a small number of cases need further work, following the initial adjudication process, due to their complexity.

Government figures showed, including the remaining legacy cases, the overall backlog had risen to 98,599.

(Reporting by Alistair Smout, additional reporting by Sachin Ravikumar)