Refugee Council response to publication of 2003 asylum statistics - Refugee Council
February 24, 2004

Refugee Council response to publication of 2003 asylum statistics

The asylum statistics for 2003 have today been published by the Home Office. In response, Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“Falling numbers are welcome where they represent real changes in the world’s strife and conflicts that cause refugee movements.

“The world is not 40% safer than it was a year ago and there is real evidence that people fleeing persecution are unable to get sanctuary in Britain. Asylum applications from Zimbabwe have fallen by over a half, due to the imposition of visa requirements on Zimbabwean nationals, yet the Zimbabwean regime remains oppressive and highly dangerous.

“Rather than impose ever-harsher treatment on all who seek asylum, the Government should concentrate on making the asylum system better at its fundamental job: to identify refugees fleeing persecution and protect them.

“What the statistics cannot tell us is the heartbreaking stories of refugees who are being let down by the system.”

The Home Office also announced that the UK will be the first European country to begin enforced return of unsuccessful Iraqi asylum seekers in the Spring. Responding to the announcement, Maeve Sherlock continued:

“Everyone knows Iraq is unsafe and its infrastructure is in tatters. It is neither safe nor desirable to send refugees back at this time. It will undermine the rebuilding of the country and remove the confidence of Iraqi refugees here who may wish to go home in the future when the situation improves.

“UNHCR* believes it is premature to force returns to Iraq now, including rejected asylum seekers, and that voluntary returns should not be promoted either.”

*United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Links & further information

Amnesty International UK today states that the 2003 asylum statistics ‘reveal a dramatic rise in the number of wrong decisions overturned on appeal…Home Office figures show that 16,070 initial decisions were overturned on appeal in 2003, compared to only 13,875 in 2002 – an increase of 2,195 or 16% (one in six)’.

An Amnesty International report released this month, based on analysis of the Home Office’s own refusal letters to asylum seekers, exposed asylum decisions based on inaccurate and out-of-date country information, unreasoned decisions about people’s credibility and a failure to properly consider complex torture cases.

United High Commissioner for Refugees website

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