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Applications for asylum fell dramatically in 2003 as a result of the ...
Applications for asylum fell dramatically in 2003 as a result of the

tough measures introduced by the government including legislation and

border controls in France, the Home Secretary announced today.

The government has already met its commitment to halve the number of

applications per month from a peak in October 2002 before the

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act came into force. The

downward trend was continued in the last three months of the year,

with a 52 per cent drop compared with the same period in 2002.

In 2003 as a whole, following a surge in applications before tougher

benefits rules came into force, applications fell by 41 per cent -

four times as much as the average across the rest of the EU. As a

result of the significant fall in numbers, applications for state

support had fallen by 60 per cent in the last three months of 2003

compared with the same period in 2002.

The home secretary said that a series of steps was being taken to

maintain the momentum and build on the record 23 per cent increase in

the number of removals in 2003:

* a new 330 capacity removal centre near Heathrow will open in


* the UK is the first country to reach agreement with the Coalition

Provisional Authority in Iraq to begin returning failed asylum

seekers from April, including both voluntary and enforced returns;

* we are working closely with the Chinese government to increase

urgently the number of returns we are able to effect to China;

* the government is also considering whether to extend the use of

biometrics in visas or on entry to the UK to countries that refuse

to co-operate on returns;

* action to tackle fraudulent claims from Somalia, including

agreement to begin to return people to Somaliland and arrangements

for identifying Somalis with permission to live elsewhere in the EU

(laid in parliament yesterday);

* the UK expects to sign an agreement soon with the Belgian

authorities to extend the use of UK immigration controls to the

Brussels Eurostar Service, to prevent illegal entry to the UK in the

first place.

The Immigration and Nationality Department (IND) is also reviewing

its enforcement activities as part of an ongoing process of

improvement in order to develop the coverage and focus of its

enforcement effort, assess priorities and how increased resources

have been deployed, and how the Immigration Service can work most

effectively with other agencies.

Mr Blunkett said:

'These figures show the very significant progress that has been made

in dramatically reducing the number of asylum seekers entering the UK

last year as a result of the tough reforms we have put in place.

Following a surge in applications before new benefits rules came into

force in January 2003, the monthly rate has been halved. This trend

was continued in the last three months of the year with a drop of 52

per cent compared with the end of 2002. For the year as a whole, the

numbers are down by 41 per cent.

'The backlog is the lowest for a decade, claims are falling four

times as fast as elsewhere in Europe and around 80 per cent of

decisions on new cases are made within two months. The number of

failed asylum seekers removed has also increased by 23 per cent.

This has not been easy.

'When the majority of asylum seekers destroy their documentation,

removing them presents us with a major challenge - we cannot adopt a

fantasy policy of parachuting people out of planes.

'Instead, we are systematically working to overcome the barriers. We

are the first country in Europe to negotiate a returns agreement with

Iraq, India and Sri Lanka and we have reached agreement to enable the

return of a small number of people to Somaliland. Sometimes the

numbers returned are low to begin with, but our evidence shows that

even a small number of returns deters others from travelling to the


'The highest number of applications in 2003 were from Somalia. This

is a country that has suffered a good deal and we know that there are

some Somali refugees seeking sanctuary here for good reason. But

there is also evidence that some Somalis with permission to live in

other EU countries are then also claiming asylum in the UK. This is


'In addition to the agreement on returns to Somaliland, the

Immigration Service will be targeting people of Somali origin at

ports in order to establish the full extent of this problem and

prevent further asylum abuse. We are will also be checking the

fingerprints of all asylum applicants from Iraq, Iran, Sudan, Somalia

and Turkey against other EU countries' own fingerprint databases in

addition to our shared database, Eurodac.

'The progress we are making will soon begin to bring down the costs

of asylum support - the last three months of 2003 show applications

for support down 60 per cent compared with this time last year.

However, a small increase in capital costs this year has been

necessary to increase detention capacity for the new removal centre

at Heathrow and to enhance border controls.'

The Spring Supplementary Estimate, published today, includes the IND

budget for 2003/04 of£2bn in total. This includes an increase

in capital spending costs for measures including new immigration

controls in France and a new removal centre near Heathrow.

The key findings from Asylum Statistics 2003 are:

* applications fell by nine per cent in the last three months of 2003

compared with the previous quarter (from 11,955 to 10,830), and by 52

per cent compared with the last quarter of 2002;

* the number of asylum seekers has fallen by 41 per cent year on year

from 84,130 (103,080 including dependants) in 2002 to 49,370 in 2003

(61,050 including dependants);

* applications to the UK fell four times as much as the average of 11

per cent in the rest of the EU;

* the number of cases awaiting an initial decision fell throughout

2003 to 24,500 by December - the lowest for a decade;

* in 2003, six per cent of decisions granted asylum, 11 per cent

granted some other form of leave to remain and eighty three per cent

of claims were refused. Of those who appealed, 20 per cent were

granted some form of leave at the first stage of appeal;

* removals of failed asylum seekers increased in 2003 by 23 per cent

to record levels of 12,490 (17,040 including dependants) from 13,910

including dependants in 2002;

* by the end of 2003 the number of asylum seekers receiving NASS

support had fallen by 13 per cent to 80,120, and in the last three

months of 2003 the number of new applications for support was 60 per

cent less than at the same time last year.

The additional measures being taken are:

Colnbrook removal centre to open in August 2004

The new removal centre near Heathrow, together with the refurbished

Harmondsworth, will expand the amount of detention space available to

more than 2,700 places by the end of the year. The Home Office is

also looking to expand space at Campsfield House. Colnbrook will

accommodate about 330 single males.

Enforced returns to Iraq to begin in Spring

The UK will be the first European country to begin enforced returns

of failed Iraqi asylum seekers in the spring. The pilot will allow

30 per month to be returned initially. The returns programme will be

linked to a package of assistance with accommodation and employment,

and will operate alongside a voluntary returns programme. The UK is

also providing significant support in Iraq to develop the Iraqi

immigration infrastructure.

New pressure on China to improve the process for returns

A recent secondment of Chinese officials to the Immigration Service

has resulted in more than 60 documents being issued for the return of

Chinese nationals and the Government is grateful for the cooperation

of the Chinese governme nt in assisting with this exercise.

However, the government is now looking urgently at ways of increasing

substantially the numbers we are able to return to China -

particularly those who refuse to co-operate with the redocumentation

process. The home secretary raised this with some of his European

counterparts at a meeting with interior ministers of the major EU

countries last week. The prime minister will also discuss this with

the Chinese premier during his forthcoming visit to the UK.

Additional measures to tackle fraudulent asylum claims

Additional fingerprint checks will be conducted against the records

of other countries for asylum seekers from the top five countries

identified as having already lodged asylum claims or holding other

status elsewhere. The Immigration Service will also target people of

Somali origin at ports for a trial period to establish a better

evidence base about routes and methods of entry to the UK. A new

returns agreement to Somaliland will enable initially small numbers

of Somalis to begin to be returned.

The Home Office is also looking at how new technology might help to

further increase the effectiveness of immigration controls.

The Asylum & Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Bill,

currently before Parliament, includes measures to overcome some of

the barriers to removals, including:

* penalties of up to two years for those who destroy their documents

or will not co-operate with the authorities to get new travel

documents when their claims fail;

* simplifying the appeals process to stop people lodging multiple,

groundless appeals solely to frustrate removal; and

* encouraging voluntary removal by ending benefits for families whose

claims have failed and who persistently refuse to take up the offer

of a paid, flight home.


The 2003-04 budget for IND contained in the Winter Supplementary

Estimate was£1.783bn, (£1.725bn resource bu dget and£58m capital budget). Increases approved in the spring

supplementary increase the IND budget by£217m (£171m

resource and£46m capital), to produce revised budgets for

2003-04 of£2bn (£1.896bn resource and£104m


The revised resource budget, which includes spending on support, has

risen by 1.8 per cent, a one per cent cut in real terms after

allowing for inflation. Costs for support are projected to begin to

fall now that applications are dropping.

Capital spending includes investment in expanding detention capacity

and putting UK immigration controls in France.

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