The backlog refers to the affirmative asylum applications that have been filed and are awaiting interview at all USCIS asylum offices nationwide. There are currently around 40,000 cases in the backlog and the number continues to increase. 28,000 of those cases were filed in 2013 alone. USCIS Asylum Headquarters does not expect the numbers to improve until at least the end of the current fiscal year (FY).
The reason for the backlog is because in addition to adjudicating affirmative asylum applications, the asylum offices are responsible for conducting credible fear and reasonable fear interviews. Credible fear and reasonable fear interviews take priority in scheduling over affirmative interviews.
Beginning in FY 2012, the number of credible fear and reasonable fear cases began to increase, and FY 2013 set records. There were 36,000 new credible fear cases in FY 2013. This was nearly three times the number in FY 2012, and nearly four times the number in FY 2011. Reasonable fear case numbers have also been way up: there were over 7,000 in FY 2013 compared to a few hundred in previous years. The second-busiest year for reasonable fear only saw approximately 1,000 cases.