Woolas: "Net migration is down, and the new UK Border Agency is increasingly successful"
Applications for asylum have dropped in the fourth quarter of 2009 to 4,765 - a 30 percent reduction compared to the same quarter in 2008 and the lowest level since quarter two 1992, new Immigration and asylum statistics released by the Home Office have revealed.
Decisions on asylum cases have also risen 36 per cent compared to the same quarter in 2008 with the grant rate for asylum falling to 13 per cent.
Applications from Eastern Europeans to work in the UK under the worker registration scheme fell to 28,495 in Q4 2009, compared to 30,600 in Q4 2008 and 52,765 in Q4 2007.
The total number of removals and voluntary departures from the UK has decreased slightly from 67,980 in 2008 to 64,750 in 2009 - reflecting the fall in asylum intake.
The ONS statistics also show that immigration from the A8 accession countries has fallen and that long term immigration to the UK remains stable at 518,000 in the year to June 2009 compared to 531,000 in the year to June 2008.
Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said: "Asylum applications for the last three months of 2009 were the lowest since the early 1990's. 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.
"Our new flexible points based system also gives us greater control over those coming to work or study from outside Europe, ensuring that only those that Britain need can come.
"We are making the UK a more hostile place for illegal immigrants by issuing foreign nationals with ID cards, checking those who apply for visas against watch lists and fining those who employ illegal workers."
Responding to the statistics showing sharp drop in asylum applications, Ms. 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.”
She asked the government 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.”
Ms. Covey also asked the government to rethink the support for 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,” she said.