statistics are broadly reliable, while the latest figures published
today show asylum applications continuing to fall.
to the government's request in April. Its report also shows that
there is no clear statistical evidence that the reduction in the
number of asylum applications has had any significant impact on other
forms of migration.
The Home Office published the latest quarterly asylum statistics
today. They show that in the first three months of this year
applications continued to fall, with a reduction of 20 per cent on
the previous quarter. The reduction comes on top of previous
substantial reductions which have brought the number of asylum
applications down by more than 60 per cent since October 2002.
Key figures in the bulletin include:
* The number of asylum applicants, including dependants, has dropped
by 20 per cent from the previous quarter to 10,585.
* The number of applications, not including dependants, has dropped
by 17 per cent to 8,940, down by 44 per cent on the same quarter last
* The number of cases awaiting an initial decision is the lowest for
a decade at 18,100, and halved from 36,300 a year ago. Eighty per
cent of initial decisions on new cases are being made within two
* The number of failed asylum seekers removed increased by one per
cent in the last quarter to 3,320, 27 per cent more than the same
quarter last year (4,085 removals including dependants).
Home Office minister Des Browne said: 'I am pleased that the NAO has
confirmed that the government's asylum statistics are reliable and
that there is no clear statistical evidence to suggest that the
reduction in asylum claims has been achieved by people coming through
other immigration categories.
'We welcome the NAO's recommendations on how we can improv e the
statistics and will look closely at them.
'The government has dramatically cut asylum applications, and the
latest figures show that we are continuing to make progress in
cutting the numbers of those who seek to abuse the system - indeed
the number of applications in the whole of the last quarter is almost
the same as the number we had in just one month in October 2002
before the NIA Act came into force.
'This fall is a result of a raft of government measures, including
ending in-country appeals for nationals of safe countries, bringing
in new visa regimes, closing Sangatte and rolling out detection
technology and UK immigration controls along the north European
'We are also making progress on removals - more than 17,000 failed
asylum seekers and dependants in the past year - but there is still
more to be done. We are pushing ahead with reforms in the Asylum and
Immigration Bill to make it easier to remove people who have no legal
right to be in this country, and are continuing our discussions with
'Crucially, the NAO report states that there is no clear statistical
evidence that the reduction in the number of asylum applications has
had any significant impact on other forms of migration. Let's be
clear - we need legal migrants who want to work, pay taxes and
contribute to our economy. I hope this report will now enable the
debate to move on and allow sensible discussion of the issues.'
The NAO report makes twelve recommendations to the Home Office
* include in asylum statistics the number of people who continue to
occupy NASS-funded accommodation whose right to receive support has
* include in asylum statistics the number of asylum seekers living in
local authority accommodation but funded by the Home Office; and
* complete, as a priority, its review of methods that could be
applied in this country to estimate the number of illegal immigrants
in the UK.
The asylum statistics also show:
* the top nationalities in the latest quarter were from Somalia,
Iran, China, Zimbabwe and Turkey;
* during 2003/4 the number of applicants from Somalia fell by 32 per
cent, from China by 15 per cent, from Zimbabwe by 62 per cent and
from Iraq by 84 per cent. Applications from Iran rose by nine per
* there were 7,425 applications for NASS support, six per cent higher
than the previous quarter, but less than half of the level in the
same quarter last year; and
* in 2003/4 there were 31,810 applications for support, compared to
70,185 in the previous year.
The Home Office is also publishing today a bulletin of those people
granted British citizenship in 2003 which shows that applications for
citizenship rose by 21 per cent last year to 139,315. The number of
people granted citizenship rose by three per cent to 124,315 and
approximately 61 per cent of people born overseas who had been in the
UK for six years or more in 2002 were British citizens.
Mr Browne added: 'We want to encourage people who have made this
country their home to take up British citizenship and play a full
part in their community. Last year we introduced new citizenship
ceremonies to make the process of becoming a British citizen much
more of a celebration of a very significant event in someone's life.
I am pleased that increasing numbers of people want to apply to
1. The home secretary announced on 6 April 2004 that the government
had asked the NAO to audit the quarterly asylum statistics published
by the Home Office. The report's terms of reference were to:
* Assess the data reliability of the quarterly asylum statistics
released by the Home Office.
* Assess whether the process for compiling those statistics is in
line with the guidelines and standards of the Office of National
Statistics for compiling National Statistics.
* Make recommendations for tackling any weaknesses the audit may
* On the basis of the statistical evidence, consider whether recent
changes in the number of asylum applications have had any significant
impact on other forms ofmigration.
* Publish an initial report alongside the release of the next
quarterly asylum statistics.
1. The full National Audit Office report is available at
2. The asylum statistics for the first quarter of 2004 are available
3. The Citizenship bulletin for 2003 is available here.