Lies, Falsehoods and Misrepresentations from Boris Johnson to Keir Starmer

“I said that this government would clear the backlog of asylum decisions by the end of 2023. That’s exactly what we’ve done”

PM Rishi Sunak, X Post

Facts

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak claimed in a post on X that, “I said that this government would clear the backlog of asylum decisions by the end of 2023. That’s exactly what we’ve done. Over 112,000 cases are now cleared with a lower grant rate than last year, a key part of our plan to stop the boats.”

The X post links to a government page which makes clear that Sunak is referring to “legacy backlog” cases. These are asylum applications made before the 28th June 2022, and represent merely a subsection of the total number of outstanding cases.

The overall asylum backlog (i.e. the total number of outstanding asylum cases) stood at 98,599 in January 2024, as Reuters reports.

35,110 of the cases stripped from the legacy backlog were neither rejected or accepted, as Financial Times points out, but rather the Home Office withdrew the applications for alleged non-compliance with rules or for vanishing.

As FT reporter William Wallis wrote: “the withdrawal of claims has led to people being cast into limbo, evicted from supported accommodation and cut off from financial support, according to immigration lawyers and charities.”

“Rishi Sunak’s rush to clear a legacy backlog in UK asylum claims has driven some applicants into the hands of criminals, pushed others towards destitution and is creating a fresh pile-up in the courts, lawyers have warned. “

Wallis’ FT piece contains damning examples of Home Office incompetence, including one case where “an interview request letter had been sent to a hotel [an asylum seeker] left long ago when the Home Office had moved him to different lodgings.”

Jon Featonby – Chief policy analyst at the Refugee Council charity – also asserts that “the fact that half of the withdrawn claims have now been reinstated shows that they should never have been withdrawn in the first place.”

The chair of the UK Statistics Authority – Sir Robert Chote – criticised Sunak’s claim: “Not only is the Conservative Government celebrating something that is no achievement, they are twisting the facts – as proven by the UK Statistics Authority just today. 

“The British public deserves better than this.”  

Verdict

Rishi Sunak was twisting the truth. 

Sunak misled his followers on X by failing to state clearly that he was referring to the “legacy backlog” in his tweet. Note that even to claim that the legacy backlog had been cleared would also have been misleading.

At the time of writing (22/05/24), the misleading X post remains online. 

We emailed Rishi Sunak’s office and Downing Street offering them the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply. 

Additional Note

This is another example of the evolving difference between Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak methodology of deceit. Johnson’s lies were often blatant or shameless fabrications, for instance about 40 new hospitals, well-documented elsewhere on this website. 

Sunak’s lies tend to be more subtle, devious, and carefully constructed. They can contain an element of truth, which is twisted or repackaged to create an entirely false impression in the mind of the voter. To put it another way: there’s something cunning about Sunak’s falsehoods, as if he knows he isn’t quite telling the truth. 

Published 28 Jun 2024
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