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LATEST ASYLUM STATISTICS PUBLISHED - ROBUST NEW MEASURE TO TACKLE ASYLUM ABUSE ANNOUNCED

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The Home Office has published the asylum statistics for the 3rd...
The Home Office has published the asylum statistics for the 3rd

quarter of 2002 (July to September) and announces a further robust

measure to tackle abuse of the system by ending the policy of

Exceptional Leave to Remain (ELR).

The figures show that applications have increased and continue to be

at an unsatisfactory level. However, the processes for dealing with

asylum claims are increasingly efficient with more decisions being

made within the two-month target and a new record number of removals

of failed asylum seekers. These figures also pre-date the recent

decisions to impose visas on Zimbabweans and measures in the

Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act which are now coming into

force.

Exceptional Leave to Remain is to be replaced by a new status of

'humanitarian protection' for those who have protection needs but who

are not covered by the 1951 Refugee Convention.

Home Office minister, Beverley Hughes, said:

'These figures are not satisfactory and demonstrate that we continue

to take more than our fair share of claimants with an unfounded

asylum claim. This underlines why it was so important to get the

latest legislation through parliament (only three weeks ago) and why

those who have tried to stop us from improving the end to end system

are so wrong, even though it will take time for these improvements to

feed through and make a difference.

'We will be introducing a further robust measure with the ending of

ELR. I believe that our use of ELR has encouraged abuse and acted as

a pull factor, encouraging economic migrants to apply for asylum in

the UK in the belief that they will be given ELR when their asylum

claim is rejected. We have already stopped the routine granting of

ELR on a country basis and we are now significantly tightening the

basis on which leave will be granted to all those who have been

refused asylum. We are determined that protection should only be

granted to those who really need it - our asylum system is not a

short-cut to work or settlement in the UK.'

Key findings in the asylum statistics bulletin include:

- Applications have risen by 11 per cent from the last quarter to

22,560.

- The largest increases come from Iraqis (+26 per cent), Zimbabweans

(+56 per cent) and Somalians (+44 per cent).

- Initial decisions were 4 per cent higher than the previous quarter

but the backlog rose again this quarter to 37,200 due to increased

applications.

- IND has reached well beyond its targets for speedy decisions, with

initial decisions made within two months on 77 per cent of new

cases (the annual target is 65 per cent).

- The Home Office received fewer appeals in this quarter and the

Immigration Appellate Authority continued to make a record number

of determinations - 18 per cent higher than the previous quarter.

- A record number of failed asylum seekers were removed in this

period - 3,565 including dependants.

- 19,470 asylum seekers applied for NASS support in this quarter.

- 1,445 detainees whohad claimed asylum at some stage were being

held in detention at the end of this period.

Commenting further on the statistics, Beverley Hughes said:

'These figures predate the implementation of measures we have agreed

with the French and demonstrate why we have focused on further

radical reform of the system to complement this wide-ranging

agreement. Had we not prevented clandestine entry on the kind of

numbers we saw last year from the freight depots at Coquelles and

Fréthun, matters would be even worse.

'Already those measures in place - technologically enhanced freight

searches, joint immigration controls and forgery detection equipment

- are having a significant impact. The number of clandestines

discovered at Dollands Moor arriving from Fréthun has dropped from a

high of nearly 400 in April to only three in October. To counter

possible dispersal to continental ports beyond Calais we are also

procuring new detection equipment for the use of port and ferry

operators further along the French coast and in Belgium.

'The closure of Sangatte will be another important element in the

fight against asylum abuse. The closure of the centre to new entrants

means that gangs, traffickers and illegal immigrants are already

beginning to understand that there is just no point going to Northern

France because they will not get into the UK.

'We have already reacted to what was a very clear abuse of the asylum

system by imposing a visa regime on Zimbabweans wishing to travel to

the UK. I believe that this will ensure effective management of our

border controls by allowing genuine visitors to enter quickly and

stop those who have no right to be here - those genuinely fleeing

persecution should seek asylum in the first safe country they come

to.

'The measures in the NIA Act will, over time, reduce the pull factor

to Britain and tackle abuse of the system. Those who make late claims

will not be entitled to support and applicants from safe countries

will be fast tracked and have no right of appeal in the UK. We will

also be clamping down on benefits shopping.

'This is, of course, at a time when we are expanding economic

migration, opening up the work permit system, and looking for new

routes for legitimate, legal migration in areas of the economy which

require the necessary skill or additional work force. It is precisely

because we anticipated the further surge (accelerated by the imminent

closure of Sangatte) that we have taken the steps we have outlined

over recent months. We now need to ensure that they work.'

Commenting on the appeals process, Baroness Scotland, minister at the

Lord Chancellor's Department, said:

'Record numbers of appeals are being dealt with by the Immigration

Appellate Authority (IAA) - 18,260 in the third quarter of 2002, 18

per cent higher than the previous quarter. The figures also show that

determinations are outstripping the number of appeals received by the

Home Office for the second consecutive quarter.

'This continued increase in determinations reflects the IAA's ability

to handle increasing numbers of appeals. Further expansion of the

Authority is enabling it to receive more each month. In addition to

this, measures in the new NIA Act will ensure that appeals will be

dealt with speedily, that the system is not undermined by meritless

applications made simply to cause delay, whilst maintaining proper

standards of fairness.'

NOTES:

1. 'Asylum Statistics: 3rd Quarter 2002' are published on the Home

Office here.

2. 'Control of Immigration Statistics 2001' is also published today

on the above website. We have already published a snapshot of this

publication on 26 September 2002.

3. The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act received Royal Assent

on 7 November 2002.

4. The home secretary announced the review of ELR on 7 October 2002.

ELR was originally intended to help those who either have protection

needs but do not qualify as refugees under the Convention, or who

have other, humanitarian needs. However, its use has grown, from

being granted to around 10 per cent of claimants five years ago to

around 25 per cent of claimants, often in cases where it is difficult

to remove particular groups of failed asylum seekers. The government

has already ended the routine granting of ELR on a country basis.

Under the new arrangements leave will be granted for three years,

with scope for shorter periods in specific circumstances, followed by

an active review. At this point, if the individual no longer has

protection needs, further leave will be refused. The home secretary

would retain the power to allow some of those who fall outside the

'humanitarian category' to stay on an exceptional, discretionary

basis, but failed asylum seekers who do not fall into one of these

groups will not be granted leave to remain.

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