Asylum Applications Continue To Fall

The number of people applying for asylum in the UK fell by over 2,000 in 2006 to its lowest level since 1993, according to Home Office statistics. The figures show that 23,610 applications, were lodged last year, representing an 8% fall in applications on 2005.

While asylum applications continue to fall, the removal of those with no right to be in the UK reached record levels. In 2006, 63,865 people were removed from the UK, an increase of ten per cent on 2005 levels. The number of failed asylum seekers, excluding dependants, removed last year increased by 19 per cent.

Home Office Minister Tony McNulty said: “Our stronger border controls are now delivering big drops in asylum applications. There are now fewer people than ever coming to Britain and making claims for asylum. We have said we will double resources for immigration policing and last year we delivered record removals of those still in Britain illegally – with one being deported every 8 minutes.

“Now we are speeding up plans to tighten border security still further. In the next 12 months we are introducing a single border force, fingerprint checks for all visa applicants, ID cards for foreign nationals, electronic passenger screening and an Australian-style points system. In addition we removed nearly 2000 foreign national prisoners in the first six months of this year, and the Prime Minister has vowed to deport 4,000 by the end of the year.”

The statistics also show that in 2006 the number of people granted settlement, or indefinite leave to remain in the UK, fell by a quarter. The number of passengers refused entry at ports – and subsequently removed from Britain – was 34,825 in 2006, a rise of six per cent compared to the previous year.

Mr McNulty said: “It is crucial that we continue to work hard to bar those from entering the UK who have no right to be here, or who present a risk to the public. We are currently preparing to roll out our e-borders programme which,  for the first time, allows us to track people in and out of the country,  and check travellers against watch-lists.

“The pilot scheme, Project Semaphore, has already tracked 29 million passenger movements, issued over 13,000 alerts, and led to over 1000 arrests. IRIS, our trusted traveller programme based on iris recognition, has been a huge success at Britain’s airports with more than 100,000 passengers enrolled already.”

Also released were the quarterly asylum figures for April to June 2007 show that the trend of falling asylum applications has continued. In the latest three month period there were 4,950 applications, excluding dependants, – a drop of 13 per cent on the previous quarter.

Removals of failed asylum seekers, excluding dependants, were down seven per cent when compared to the first quarter of 2007. This highlights the Border and Immigration Agency’s commitment to remove the most dangerous people first, with a record 2,784 foreign national prisoners deported in the financial year 2006-07.

Also published were figures for the number of Bulgarians and Romanians registering to work in the UK. They show that between April and June 2007 3,990 were granted access to work for employers in the labour market – 21 per cent lower than the 5,075 granted in Q1. Overall, 9,335 Bulgarian and Romanian nationals had their applications granted. This includes those registering as self-employed and self-sufficient. An additional 3,980 were issued cards for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers Scheme (SAWS).

Bulgarians and Romanians are coming to the UK to work – contributing to the success of the economy and working in business, financial services, as researchers and in the entertainment and leisure industry.

Alongside the Bulgarian and Romanian figures the Home Office is also publishing figures on the number of individuals registering to work in the UK from the eight Eastern European countries which joined the EU in 2004. The accession monitoring figures show a fall in the number of individuals who applied to work under the Worker Registration Scheme. Between April and June 2007 the number of applications received was 50,000 compared with 52,000 in Quarter 1 2007, and 56,000 in the same
period last year.

Mr McNulty said: “It is too soon to evaluate the full impact of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU. Our indications are that the policy of restricting access to the UK’s labour market is helping to ensure that only those who have something to offer the UK are allowed to work here.

“We will continue to monitor restrictions. That’s why we are creating an independent Migration Advisory Committee to look at how migration can sensibly fill skills shortages and, alongside it, the Migration Impacts Forum, which started work in June to monitor the wider social impacts of immigration.

“The message is clear – while we welcome those who are here to work legally bringing their skills and expertise and benefiting our country, those who don’t have permission to work here won’t find a job.”