Posted on November 18, 2004

Asylum Claims Up Again After Summer Surge

Philip Johnston, Telegraph (UK), Nov. 17

The number of asylum claims is on the rise again, official figures showed yesterday. In the third quarter of this year, there were 10,385 applicants, including dependants, an increase of 13 per cent on the previous three months.

There has also been a steady fall in the number of failed applicants being forcibly removed from the country, down 15 per cent on the same period last year despite Government promises to step up deportations.

The Home Office said asylum numbers were still significantly lower than in recent years and attributed the latest rise to “seasonal variations” caused by workers seeking farm jobs and using the asylum system as a way in.

Officials also blamed a “surge” in applications from Eritreans brought to this country to act as domestic “slaves” who had claimed asylum because their employers had taken their passports.

Des Browne, the immigration minister, said: “Experience has taught us to expect seasonal highs during the July to September period.”

He added: “Year on year the figures are continuing to fall — they are 67 per cent down on October 2002’s peak and we are confident they are not about to start rising again.”

However, David Davis, the shadow home secretary, said: “This shows the Government’s asylum policy is still a shambles. The number of failed asylum seekers removed has fallen by nearly 30 per cent compared to the same period last year. There are already over 250,000 failed asylum seekers living in Britain. With removal numbers falling this is set to rise even further.”

Sir Andrew Green, the chairman of Migrationwatch UK, a think-tank, said: “It’s increasingly clear that present policies cannot reduce asylum claims to acceptable levels, especially as 70 per cent are eventually refused permission to stay and only one in five of those refused is actually removed.”

Mr Browne said removals had been difficult, mainly because of the temporary closure of Harmondsworth removal centre, near Heathrow, after a disturbance in the summer.

However, the Government’s past removals policy was criticised yesterday in a report into a riot at the Yarl’s Wood asylum detention centre, near Bedford, in February 2002.

Stephen Shaw, the prison and probation ombudsman, said the disturbance was the result of “an ambitious and, as things turned out, unachievable policy for the removal of failed asylum seekers”.

A target — subsequently abandoned — for the removal of 30,000 asylum seekers a year was set by ministers who ordered that the £100 million centre should be built in record time. “In the event, the building was poorly designed and not fit for the purpose,” said Mr Shaw.

The riot, which caused millions of pounds of damage, was caused when “an everyday incident involving a middle-aged female detainee was mishandled”, the report said.

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