AMNESTY International has warned that the Tories' latest plans to cut the Home Office backlog of asylum claims is a "recipe for more injustice".

Thousands of asylum seekers will be sent Home Office questionnaires which could be used to decide their claims in a bid to cut the soaring backlog of cases.

It is understood about 12,000 people from Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea, Libya and Yemen, who have applied for asylum in the UK and are waiting for a decision, are understood to be eligible under the policy being launched on Thursday.

The Home Office announced the plans, which aim to speed up processing applications for people from nations that typically have a high grant rate in the UK of more than 95%, as figures due to be published are expected to show there are more than 150,000 outstanding asylum cases.

The National: Rishi Sunak

It comes after Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to reduce the asylum backlog by the end of the year as he vowed to “stop the boats” crossing the Channel. The Home Office is faced with having about 10 months to clear 92,601 initial asylum claims which were in the system as of the end of June 2022.

Asylum seekers subject to the process, which applies to adult applicants and their child dependants but not lone migrants under the age of 18, will not be automatically interviewed.

Instead, they will be sent a 10-page questionnaire to fill out, containing about 40 questions which may not all apply to them, and asked to return it within an initial 20 working days before being offered an extension.

Campaigners criticised the plans as “clumsy” amid reports that asylum seekers will be told to fill out the form in English.

READ MORE: Scotland should use devolved powers to help refugees, urges Scottish Refugee Council

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said: “For more than two years we’ve been sounding the alarm that the asylum applications backlog was spiralling out of control, and the latest figures once again show the disastrous impact of Government policies on asylum - particularly a decision taken in December 2020 to delay or refuse to process thousands of people’s claims.

“At best, the Home Office’s new questionnaire scheme is too little, too late - and at worst it could make a situation of dire backlogs and rising costs even worse.

“Introducing a questionnaire with the threat that failure to complete and return it in time may lead to a refusal is dangerous and foolish.

“Refusing asylum to people who have good claims by making unreasonable bureaucratic demands is a recipe for more injustice in the asylum system."

READ MORE: FACT CHECK: Claim Scotland isn't taking a fair share of asylum seekers

Meanwhile a Home Office letter published on Twitter by Sky News, which was addressed to “stakeholders” and set out the plans, warned asylum seekers risked having their claim “withdrawn” if they failed to return the questionnaire without a “reasonable explanation”.

Applicants could still be called for an interview and any who do not provide the required information and evidence could have their claim rejected.

Those granted asylum will be allowed to work and would then be expected to find their own accommodation.

Officials insisted the move was not akin to a so-called asylum amnesty and stressed thorough security checks would still be carried out.

Caitlin Boswell, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), said: “People fleeing conflict and violence clearly need this Government to make quicker and fairer asylum decisions, but this latest move from Government is clumsy, unthinking and could put people’s safety at risk.

“No-one’s right to refuge should be jeopardised because they weren’t able to fill in a long unwieldy form in a language they don’t speak. This Government shouldn’t be cutting corners when it comes to making life-changing decisions on people’s futures.”

The National:

The Refugee Council’s chief executive, Enver Solomon, said moves to reduce the backlog were “welcome but the answer is not yet more bureaucratic hurdles and threats of applications being withdrawn”, adding the process should be “well thought-out”.

“As it stands, the Prime Minister will fail to meet his commitment to clear the backlog by the end of this year and, if he is serious about it, there must be a more ambitious, workable, person-centred approach that sees the face behind the case.

“A priority should be accelerating the asylum claims of thousands of unaccompanied children and those of the 10,000 people who have been waiting for more than three years, as well as making quick positive decisions for those from countries like Sudan and Iran that also have very high grant rates.

“Without these steps, the record backlog is only going to continue to grow, at great human and financial cost,” he said.

The British Red Cross’s Christina Marriott also raised concerns that a 20-day time limit could have “devastating impacts”.

“These men, women and children are from places like Afghanistan, Syria and Iran, they may not speak English and are likely traumatised from fleeing persecution and war. They need our support and compassion, not rushed and complicated bureaucracy that will only increase suffering,” she said.

“We know from experience that government communications with people seeking asylum often falls short – translations are rarely provided and forms are lost in transit. This time limit could have devastating impacts on people who need protection, whilst creating more work for the Home Office.”