Alan Travis, The Guardian (London), Feb. 23
The number of asylum seekers and their families coming to Britain has fallen from 110,000 to 40,200 in the past two years — more than 65% — according to official asylum figures published yesterday, which show that 2,780 applied in December, of whom more than 1,100 were from Iran.
Fewer rejected asylum seekers were deported last year than in the previous year.
The figures were published as refugee agencies issued a guide urging the political parties to counter the myths about asylum during the coming election campaign.
Home Office figures also published yesterday show a record number coming to work in Britain: 198,000 work permits were issued in 2004.
The latest figures show that 130,000 citizens of the states which joined the EU in May last year have registered to work in Britain.
The Home Office said that about 40% of them were already in Britain and had used the worker registration scheme to legitimise their status.
The flow from Poland, the Czech Republic and the Baltic states had decreased in the last couple of months, with only 8,000 registering in December.
The immigration minister, Des Browne, said workers from the eight new EU states contributed £240m to the British economy between May and December last year.
After Iran, the main sources of asylum seekers between October and December 2004 were China (540) and Iraq (490).