Bishop of St Albans urges better communication with local authorities when processing people in the asylum system

The Bishop of St Albans asked a question regarding lack of communication with local authorities regarding people seeking asylum on 14th December 2022, following a government statement on immigration and plans for the future of the asylum system:

The Lord Bishop of St Albans: My Lords, there are a number of aspects of this Statement which I welcome, not least that there are going to be increased numbers of people processing and that the aim is to process within weeks rather than months and get people through the system much more quickly. But there really has been quite a problem, not least at Manston, where at one stage 4,000 people were staying in a centre designed for 1,600. As they were being shipped out around the country, a whole lot were delivered into Luton, in my diocese, with no warning. Even the local authority was not able to help. So my question is: what lessons have been learned? Can we be sure that we are really communicating well with local authorities, so that we can work on this together, give people dignity and try and process them as quickly and effectively as we can?

Lord True (Con): The answer, I hope, is yes. I would say that, would I not, as a former leader of a local authority? I think that local authorities have a very important role to play here. I think that was very much part of the Statement that my right honourable friend the Prime Minister made. There will be mistakes and there have been mistakes; the Prime Minister was absolutely clear about that. There is no silver bullet either to these matters. Our collective duty is to toil to address what is a real problem—and is perceived to be a real problem by the majority of people in this country —but to do so in a humane and practical manner. That is what I would wish to be the sense that informed the Government of which I am a part, and that is how I perceive my right honourable friend.

I welcome what the right reverend Prelate said about the number of case workers; yes, we are seeking to double that number, so that we can clear the asylum backlog by the end of next year. I agree that we need to process claims in days or weeks, not months or years. That is not acceptable, which is why we are doubling the number of case workers to 2,500, and also radically simplifying the casework process, with shorter guidance, fewer interviews, less paperwork, and specialist casework by nationality, because the needs and responses by nationality are sometimes different. So I hope that we will go forward in that spirit, as the right reverend Prelate asks.


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