16/11/2004

Asylum applications rise 9% over last quarter

Asylum applications rose by 9% last quarter, but stand around a third lower than this time last year, according to statistics published today.

The statistics for July to September of 2004 found that asylum applications rose by 685, compared to the previous three months. The Home Office put the "slight increase" in this quarter’s figures down to "normal seasonal variations" and an increase in applications in September.

However, applications remain 29% lower than the same period in 2003 and 67% lower than at their peak in October 2002. The total number of applications for this quarter was 8,605, the figure for the same quarter last year was 12,055 and the year before was 22,030.

Home Office Immigration Minister Des Browne said there was "no room for complacency" and there would be no let up in the Government’s drive to reduce "unfounded asylum claims" and increase removals of those whose claims have failed.

Mr Browne said: "The statistics confirm that the achievements of the past two years are being sustained - four out of five new claims are now decided in two months rather than the 20 months it took in 1997, the number of claims outstanding is at a 10-year low and numbers receiving NASS support continue to fall. We are on track to cut asylum support costs by a third by the end of 2005.

"We are clearly going in the right direction but we are not complacent and, having significantly reduced unfounded asylum applications we are stepping up action on removals."

The government also announced an end to the temporary blanket suspension of enforced returns of failed asylum seekers to Zimbabwe, and a resumption of considering returns on a case-by-case basis while continuing to help those in genuine need of protection, including political refugees.

The Minister said that measures surrounding Zimbabwe had to be changed as they were being exploited.

"Zimbabweans and other foreign nationals posing as Zimbabweans, who do not need international protection, make asylum claims confident that even when claims are refused they will not be returned. We need to stop this abuse while continuing to offer protection to genuine refugees," he said.

Currently, around 1,000 people a day are refused entry, stopped from entering, or removed from the UK.

(gmcg/sp)

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