22/02/2005

Asylum figures falling, government claims

The number of asylum applications fell by 2% in the last quarter of 2004, new Home Office figures have revealed – the second lowest level since 1997.

The new figures reveal that there were 8,465 asylum applications between October and December 2004. The Home Office said this represented a 22% decrease from the same period last year and a 68% decrease from October 2002 figures.

The number of initial decisions in the last quarter, also dropped by 25% from the previous quarter to 8,460.

The figures also revealed that the number of cases awaiting an initial decision had also fallen – from 23,900 at the end of December 2003 to 9,800 last December .The Home Office said that this was the lowest level in ten years.

In the last quarter, 4% of the cases considered were granted refugee status (an increase of 1% from the previous quarter), while 12% were granted humanitarian protection or discretionary leave (an increase of 4% from the previous quarter). The number of initial decisions that were refusals also dropped in the last quarter to 85% from 90% the previous quarter.

The latest figures showed that Iranian, Chinese and Iraqi people were the most likely to seek asylum in Britain.

Commenting on the new figures, Immigration Minister, Des Browne said: "Asylum numbers are continuing to fall dramatically year on year, and provisional figures for the whole of 2004 show UK asylum applications fell by 33% including dependants, twice the rate of the rest of Europe. This has been achieved through measures such as the closure of Sangatte, rolling out detection technology, posting immigration officers in France and Belgium, ending appeals in the UK for nationals of safe countries, introducing new visa regimes and bringing in tough legislation to deal with abuse of the system and delays."

Mr Browne said that the government was on track to cut asylum support costs by a third by the end of 2005. However, Conservatives Shadow Home Secretary, David Davis, said that the figures showed that the government was "still struggling" to control the asylum situation. He said: "Under Labour, Britain has become a soft touch on asylum and immigration and everybody knows it. Despite the Prime Minister's promises, 250,000 failed asylum seekers remain in Britain and the rate of removals is below the rate of new applications. Only the Conservatives are committed to a quota system to limit the numbers of people that come to Britain."

(KMcA/SP)

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