The number of asylum seekers arriving in Britain has fallen sharply, according to official Home Office figures released last week.
The quarterly statistics published on Thursday (25 Feb) stated there were 4,765 applications for asylum in the final three months of 2009. This is 30% less than the same period the previous year, when there were 6,778 applications.
The annual asylum figures for 2009 show that overall applications fell by 6% to 24,250 with 27% of decisions resulting in official permission to stay, and 17% given full refugee status.
During 2009 a total of 64,750 failed asylum seekers were deported or left Britain voluntarily – 5% fewer than the previous year.
Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: “Asylum applications for the last three months of 2009 were the lowest since the early 1990s. Net migration is down, and the new UK Border Agency is increasingly successful. Our border has never been stronger, as shown by the fall in the number of asylum applications.”
In response, Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:
“The fact that the number of asylum applications has fallen sharply means it is now high time the government addressed some of the serious failings in the system.
“The figures show that in 2009, almost a third (28%) of appeals were allowed – this shows a significant proportion of initial decisions are wrong. This is both costly and harmful to people who have already been through traumatic experiences, as they are forced to battle for justice.
“The government needs to look seriously into investing more into the first stages of the system, to get more decisions right first time. This will save money in the long term as people will be out of the system faster, and can begin rebuilding their lives here, work and contribute.
“It also needs to take this opportunity to rethink how it supports asylum seekers who are waiting. The current levels, now slashed to £35 per week, are unacceptable, and causing ill health and hunger. We urge the government to use this chance to restore asylum support to a level that is liveable and give those who are waiting for long periods for a decision on their case the chance to work and support themselves.”