35. Weekly Newsletter

Migration concerns in the UK

The cost of the UK’s asylum system has jumped to almost £4 billion in the last 12 months as a result of record backlog and processing issues. The costs have been exacerbated by a rise in asylum seekers awaiting initial decision with 134,046 cases still under review (35% rise compared to last year). This backlog has proved to be extremely costly with over £6 million is being spent per day accommodating asylum seekers in hotels. The extent of the backlog is highlighted by the fact that 97,390 new asylum claims have been made in the UK in the last 12 months and yet the overall cases awaiting decision is significantly higher. A high volume of migrants continues to cross the channel along with the ever-increasing backlog of cases. This is despite Rishi Sunak’s commitment to solve the backlog of legacy”cases along with one of his 5 key pledges of “stopping the boats”; an important promise made with the 2025 general election looming.

The UK government is looking at ways to reduce the problems such as trying to relocate asylum seekers placed in hotels by financing the redevelopment of old prisons, military bases as well as using a floating barge and increasing general detention centre capacity. Other ways have included the Home Office introducing bar-coded wristbands on migrants in an effort to improve data collection at detention centres. This comes after a recent report by the Home Office inspector describing a “woeful” collection of data on the number of migrants held at processing sites. However, this method has received some backlash with concerns that it is dehumanising to ‘bar-code’ asylum seekers.

Newspapers, politics and the UK economy

The UK’s front page news cycle over the last seven days covered a wide range of topics with no single issue dominating the headlines. UK economic activity fell for the first time since the start of the year as a result of rising interest rates and weaker household spending. Furthermore, inquiry into UK government Covid contracts remains topical as contracts worth £8 billion are still yet to be published. Some of the newspaper front pages over the last week were:

  • The Sunday Telegraph: Record rise in young men out of work and education
  • The Independent: Recession fears grow as UK business activity shrinks
  • The Times: The UK retail Sales fall at fastest pace in more than 2 years, says CBI
  • Financial Times: UK telecoms groups under fire for adding inflation ‘premium’ to bills
  • BBC News: Airlines warn of UK flight delays over air traffic control fault
  • Financial Times: Full details of UK Covid contracts worth £8 billion still to be published
  • Financial Times: Cost of UK asylum system nearly doubles to £4bn a year
  • Daily Express: Rishi Sunak faces calls to scrap ‘not fit for purpose’ energy price cap
  • Financial Times: UK economic activity slides as interest rates hit demand
  • Sky News: Food prices still rising faster than wages although overall rate of retail inflation falls

The complete details of Covid-19 contracts worth £8 billion are yet to be published. The current information is based on 1500 contracts issued by the UKgovernment and the NHS in England. Research found that the contracts were missing key details and breached cabinet office transparency guidelines as details of procurement as well as payments were found to be missing. This is expected to be further investigated later this year in the official Covid enquiry as it was found that VIP lanes were established for suppliers of personal protective equipment(PPE). This investigation is expected to hear evidence, from the National Audit Office (NAO), that suppliers with links to government officials were “10 times more likely” to receive contracts than other bidders.

UK economy slump

The flash UK composite purchasing managers index (PMI- a measure of the health of UK economy) fell to 47.9 in August which is the lowest in over two and a half years. As a result of a rise in interest rates and weaker household spending, both manufacturing and the services demand decreased. As reinforced by Chris Williamson, chief business economist at S&P Global Market Intelligence (publishes the figures), a falter in both manufacturing and services makes contraction of the economy “inevitable”. It is true that these PMI figures indicate that the Bank of England’s efforts to reduce inflation are beginning to work, however the fight against inflation incurs “a heavy cost in terms of heightened recession risks”.

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