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ASYLUM SEEKERS REGULATIONS LAID BEFORE PARLIAMENT

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Social security secretary Peter Lilley has laid regulations before parliament to reform benefit arrangements for as...
Social security secretary Peter Lilley has laid regulations before parliament to reform benefit arrangements for asylum seekers and other people from abroad. The regulations will come into force on 5 February 1996.

The regulations affect three broad groups of people:

-- asylum seekers who have been found by the immigration authorities not to be refugees

-- asylum seekers and other people from abroad who entered the country on the understanding they would not be a burden on public funds and could support themselves, or who have entered the country illegally

-- sponsored immigrants who were allowed in on condition they would not be a burden on public funds

In none of these cases should they expect to be supported by the taxpayer, said Mr Lilley. Transitional arrangements, however, will enable 13,000 asylum claimants currently in receipt of income-related benefits to keep benefit unless or until their claim or appeal is rejected.

Mr Lilley said: 'The aim of these reforms - together with the measures in the Asylum and and Immigration Bill are: to ensure that the United Kingdom remains a safe haven for those genuinely fleeing persecution; to deal more speedily with their claims and to discourage unfounded claims from those who are actually economic migrants.

'Well over 90% of those claiming asylum are eventually found not to be genuine refugees.

'Other European countries offer more limited benefits, less opportunity for work, and have tightened up the procedures applying to asylum seekers. As a result the number of asylum claims in Western Europe as a whole since 1993 has fallen by over a third. In Britain they have doubled.

'The total cost of social security benefits alone for asylum seekers already exceeds £200m a year. So benefit changes are essential to discourage these unfounded claims.

'The transitional arrangements as originally proposed in October were designed to discourage pre-emptive claims. They have served their purpose.

'The 13,000 or more asylum seekers who have made in-country claims or appeals since 12 October and are receiving income support, housing benefit or council tax benefit will continue to get benefit unless or until their claim or appeal is rejected. No-one will lose benefit when the new regulations come into effect on 5 February 1996.

'The government also proposes to assist local authorities with any unavoidable additional costs arising under homelessness legislation or the Children Act. The secretaries of state for health and environment will be discussing details with the local authority associations shortly.

'I believe this fully meets the most pressing concerns put to the government by the social security advisory committee and local authorities.

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