July 12, 2024

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UK statistics regulator probes Sunak claims on ‘legacy’ asylum cases

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The UK statistics watchdog is investigating the government’s claim to have “cleared” the so-called legacy backlog of asylum cases.

Rishi Sunak said on Monday that he had met his pledge to process by the end of last year all 92,000 asylum cases that were outstanding up to June 2022, which he had defined as the “legacy” backlog.

“By clearing the legacy asylum backlog, deciding more than 112,000 cases, we are saving the taxpayer millions of pounds in expensive hotel costs, reducing strain on public services and ensuring the most vulnerable receive the right support,” the prime minister said.

The claim to have cleared the backlog was repeated by home secretary James Cleverly in a broadcast-media round on Tuesday.

Labour insisted it was a false claim, arguing that more than 4,000 of those cases remained unresolved and highlighting that 17,000 asylum seekers had simply been withdrawn from the list.

A spokesperson for the Office for Statistics Regulation, an arm of the UK Statistics Authority, confirmed to the Financial Times on Wednesday that it had received a complaint and was looking into the matter.

The row comes after Sunak was rebuked by the chair of the UK Statistics Authority last month for wrongly claiming that “debt is falling”, in a bid to suggest he was meeting one of his five priority pledges for 2023.

The OSR will examine the presentation and communication of all the migration data in the government’s statistical and press releases on Monday, as well as remarks made by ministers — including Cleverly — in subsequent media appearances.

Such investigations have no set conclusion deadline, and they can be triggered autonomously by the OSR or by external complaints. However, this probe is expected to take weeks, rather than months, according to a person familiar with the matter.

The OSR does not disclose the substance…

2024-01-03 13:24:38

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