23/08/2005

Asylum applications fall by 11%

The number of asylum applications fell by 11% in the second quarter of this year, according to the latest figures from the Home Office.

It was announced that 6,220 asylum seekers, excluding dependents, arrived in the UK between April and June this year.

According to the latest figures, asylum applications fell by 21% on the same period in 2004, by 76% from their peak in October 2002 and 20% from May 1997.

The Home Office attributed the fall in applications to a number of measures, including: the speeding up of the asylum and appeals process; removal of the right of appeal in the UK for those from safe countries; strengthening visa regimes; closure of Sangatte; deployment of detection technology and UK immigration officers on mainland Europe.

The latest figures also showed an increase in the removal of failed asylum seekers, with 3,095 removed in the second quarter – an increase of 3% on the previous quarter’s figures. However, removal figures dropped by 2% compared to the same period last year.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said that although the number of asylum applications was continuing to fall, more still needed to be done. He said: “Our five year immigration strategy sets out ways in which we will continue to deal with attempts to abuse our asylum system, such as fingerprinting all visa nationals and implementing our e-Borders programme to monitor all those entering and leaving the UK.

“Removal figures are up, but we need to make more progress in this area and we remain committed to our aim of removing more failed asylum seekers on a monthly basis, by the end of 2005, than there are new unfounded claims.”

The Conservatives used the latest figures to criticise the government, saying that it was failing to meet its target to remove more failed asylum seekers than arrived in the country.

Shadow Immigration spokesperson, Humfrey Malins, said that the UK still had the second highest number of asylum applications in Europe in 2004 and the third highest in the industrialised world. He said: “This makes a mockery of the government’s target to deport more failed asylum seekers than arrive. The number of failed asylum seekers who remain in the country continues to increase – what is the government going to do about it? At this rate, it would take nearly 20 years just to deal with those already here – let alone deal with any future arrivals.”

Mr Malins added: “Rather than rising, the number of deportations is, in fact, falling. The continued failure to address this problem beggars belief.”

Commenting on the latest figures, Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Mark Oaten said: “It is impossible to draw conclusions from these numbers as international circumstances change from month to month.

“Targets and statistics shouldn’t guide asylum policy. We should always be welcoming those fleeing persecution but be firm with removing those who don’t have a genuine case.”

(KMcA/GB)










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