Labour pledge to end use of asylum hotels, clear the Tory asylum backlog and speed up safe country returns – saving the British taxpayer £2bn a year, by staff reporter

Labour Leader, Keir Starmer, and Shadow Home Secretary, Yvette Cooper, have today unveiled a plan they believe will fix the broken asylum system and save taxpayers billions by ending the use of costly hotels and setting up a new returns unit to speed up removals of failed asylum seekers.

Labour claim the plans will put an end to the Tories’ asylum chaos by recruiting over 1,000 Home Office caseworkers to clear the record Tory asylum backlog and ending the use of expensive hotels at astronomical cost to the taxpayer. Labour would hire a further 1,000 staff for a new returns unit so that those who do not have a right to stay here can be quickly removed, reversing the 70 per cent collapse in asylum removals that the Tory Government has overseen since 2010.

The Home Office have accepted that an individual’s average stay in the asylum system has risen to a shocking four years.

Labour have promised to fast track decisions on applications from safe countries, like India and Albania, which are unlikely to be granted, processing these cases within weeks and organising swift returns.

Labour also say they will revamp and speed up asylum processing with a productivity plan, new processing standards, and new Nightingale Asylum Courts will be established to expedite legal challenges.

A new productivity plan will be also introduced, bringing in new asylum processing standards, and new Nightingale Asylum Courts will be established to expedite legal challenges.

Labour say their plan will:

  • Hire over 1000 new caseworkers on an expedited process (a 50% increase on current asylum casework levels) to bust the backlog and get through cases efficiently.
  • Implement targets and standards to ensure decisions are made well and productivity increases. New staff will be recruited at a higher grade than recent Home Office casework recruitment to improve productivity after the Tory downgrade of staffing in 2013 led to productivity falling.
  • Create a returns unit to triage and fast-track removals of those such as failed asylum seekers with no right to be in the UK, with 1000 staff to ensure enforcement.
  • Invest in temporary Nightingale-style courts to ensure appeals can be quickly heard, and removals processed

Under Labour’s plans, once the backlog created by the Tories is cleared, it should no longer be necessary to accommodate asylum seekers in hotels, barges or former military sites, like RAF Scampton, which are currently costing the taxpayer over £2billion a year.

Instead, a Labour Government will rely on long-standing, cost-effective asylum accommodation, which has space for 58,000 asylum applicants at any one time. This has been sufficient in the past, but the Tory Government’s failure to tackle the record backlog has made them reliant on costly hotels once this asylum accommodation reached capacity. When Labour left office in 2010 the backlog stood at just 19,000, so well within the 58,000 capacity.

Labour’s plans to crack down on the criminal smuggling gangs and secure a new deal with Europe will tackle this problem at source.

Yvette Cooper MP, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary, said: “Tory chaos at our borders and in the asylum system is costing taxpayers billions and must come to an end. All we have had from this Government is gimmicks not grip.

“Labour has a serious plan to end the government’s wasteful spending on hotels and return people who have no right to be here.

“These plans will go hand in hand with our plans to stop the criminal smuggling gangs, put stronger powers in place and get a new security agreement including working with Europol so that we can tackle the problem at source.

“Labour will Take Back Control of our asylum system. We know the British public want to see strong border security and a properly controlled and fair asylum system, and that’s what we’ll deliver.”