Home Office Immigration Minister replies to concerns over the waiting times in the asylum system for those not eligible for the British National (Overseas) route.

May 17, 2023 | News

The Lord Alton of Liverpool
Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP Minister of State for Immigration
2 Marsham Street London SW1P 4DF

House of Lords
London SW1A 0PW

17 May 2023

Dear Lord Alton,

Thank you for your joint letter of 18 April to the Home Secretary expressing your concerns over the waiting times in the asylum system for those not eligible for the British National (Overseas) route. I am replying as the Minister of State for Immigration, and I would be grateful if you could share this reply with your co-signatories.

The British National (Overseas) (BN(O)) route reflects the UK’s historic and moral
commitment to those people of Hong Kong who chose to retain their ties to the UK by
taking up BN(O) status at the point of Hong Kong’s handover to China in 1997. To be
eligible for the BN(O) route, applicants must have BN(O) status, or be the eligible family
member of someone with BN(O) status.

BN(O) status is a form of British nationality created for people from Hong Kong so they could retain ties to the UK after Hong Kong’s handover to China. Registration for BN(O) status was a time limited offer for those who wished to maintain connections with the UK following handover in 1997 and had to be applied for before 1 July 1997. There are currently no plans to grant BN(O) status retrospectively or re-open applications for BN(O) status.

The UK has a proud history of providing protection to those who need it, in accordance with our international obligations under the Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

All asylum claims that are lodged from within the UK and admitted to the UK asylum system are given full and careful consideration so that we do not remove anyone who faces persecution or serious harm on return to their country of origin. Our guidance for considering asylum claims is available on GOV.UK at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/considering-asylum-claims-and-assessing- credibility-instruction.
To help reduce the number of outstanding claims for protection we are investing in a programme of transformation and business improvement initiatives that will speed up and simplify our processes, reduce the time people spend in the asylum system and decrease the number of people who are awaiting an interview or decision.

These initiatives include conducting shorter, more focused interviews or omitting interviews where it is appropriate to do so, streamlining decision templates and focusing on improving quality to ensure decisions are right first time. We have introduced specialist Decision Making Units, providing greater ownership and management of cohorts of asylum cases. Additionally, we have extensive ongoing recruitment and training plans in place, including career progression options that will aid the retention of staff.
We are continuing to develop existing and new technology to help build on recent improvements such as digital interviewing and move away from a paper-based system. We are streamlining and digitising the caseworking process to enable more effective workflow, appointment booking and decision making.
Finally, on 13 December 2022, the Prime Minister pledged to clear the backlog of the 92,601 initial asylum ‘legacy’ claims – this relates to asylum claims made before 28 June 2022. Whilst we cannot comment on individual cases, if the named individuals claimed asylum before 28 June 2022, we will, absent exceptional circumstances, decide their claims before the end of 2023.
Yours sincerely,
Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP Minister of State for Immigration

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