Asylum claims made in the UK have risen to their highest level for nearly 20 years, according to new figures from the Home Office.

The backlog of cases waiting to be dealt with is also at a record high.

A total of 37,562 applications were made in the year to September – more than in any 12-month period since the year to June 2004 (39,746) and higher than the numbers seen at the peak of the European migration crisis in 2015 and 2016 (36,546).

The latest figure is up 18% on the year to September 2020 (31,966), although this will have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic amid restrictions on movement. There were 35,737 applications for the same period in 2019.

A total of 67,547 asylum applications were awaiting a decision at the end of September – up 41% year-on-year and the highest since current records began in June 2010.

Separate Home Office figures show the overall number of cases in the asylum system – including cases awaiting the outcome of appeals and failed asylum seekers due to be removed from the UK – stood at 125,316 at the end of June 2021, up 14% year-on-year and more than three times the number a decade earlier (37,903 in June 2011).

More than 25,700 people have made the dangerous journey across the English Channel to the UK in small boats this year – three times the total for the whole of 2020, according to data compiled by the PA news agency.

Last week, one of the Government’s immigration ministers told MPs that migrants boarding small boats to get to the UK is becoming the “route of choice for facilitations by evil criminal gangs”.