Multiple asylum seekers were received support in Waverley while their claim was processed last year, new figures show.

The number of people waiting for an asylum decision in the UK fell by a fifth in December last year, but the British Red Cross said thousands are still “stuck in indefinite limbo” causing unnecessary costs to the taxpayer.

Asylum seekers are unable to work while waiting for a decision, but can be entitled to ‘Section 95’ support which provides them with financial assistance and accommodation.

Home Office figures show two people were claiming assistance in Waverley as of December last year – down from three in 2022.

The figures come as the UK's backlog for asylum applications fell by 20% from 160,919 at the end of the year in 2022 to 128,786 people waiting for an initial decision on their asylum applications in December 2023.

This is down by more than a quarter from 175,457 at the end of June 2023, which was the highest figure since current records began in 2010.

Tom Cottam, head of policy for the British Red Cross, said while the figures indicate some positive progress in reducing the legacy asylum backlog, they don’t tell the full story as there are “thousands of people stuck in indefinite limbo because the Illegal Migration Act prevents them from getting a decision on their claim” .

The aim of the act is to prevent and deter ‘unlawful’ migration by those using unsafe routes and was passed in July last year.

Mr Cottam added: “We are concerned about the human impact of this.

“We see the toll this is taking on people’s physical and mental health, as they’re often not allowed to work, and cannot find a proper home or be with their families.”

Claimants may also be eligible for support under Section 98 – which is given to those who appear destitute and are waiting to see if they are eligible for Section 95 – or Section 4, for after a claim is rejected.

The number of people receiving Section 98 support fell substantially from 49,493 in December 2022 to just 1,244 last year.

Withdrawn applications quadrupled in 2023, which the Refugee Council said it was “very concerned by”.

Changes were made to the immigration rules last year to speed up the process, including treating applications as ‘implicitly withdrawn’ if an applicant fails to maintain contact with the Home Office or complete an asylum questionnaire.

There were 24,027 withdrawals, relating to 25,583 people, a steep rise on 2022 when there were 5,255 relating to 5,944 people.

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “Withdrawals should never be used as a way to reduce the backlog and should only be employed in certain, very specific circumstances.”

He added withdrawals can have “terrible consequences”, with people “ending up destitute and cut off from much-needed support”.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are making progress to stop the boats and last year the UK bucked the trend by reducing illegal migration and made significant steps in tackling abuse of our asylum system.

“Channel crossings were down by more than a third, we cleared the legacy asylum backlog, enforced returns were up by 66% and we returned 50 hotels back to their communities.

“We will pass our Rwanda Bill so that those who enter the UK illegally can be quickly removed to a safe third country. Only by removing the prospect that illegal migrants can settle in the UK can we control our borders and save lives at sea.”