Lowest number of asylum applications in 14 years

26 February 2008

Quarterly Asylum, Accession Monitoring and Bulgaria and Romania statistics published today

Asylum applications in 2007 were at their lowest level for 14 years, according to statistics published by the Home Office today.

In 2007 there were 23,430 principal asylum applications lodged, this represents the lowest number of annual applications since 1993. It also means that principal applications are now a quarter of the level they were at in 2002.

Today’s figures show that between October and December 2007, there were 6,910 principal asylum applications.

Last year 12,525 failed asylum seekers, excluding dependents, were removed from the United Kingdom.  Overall the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) removed 63,140 people from the UK – one person deported every eight minutes.

The BIA not only increased the number of decisions made in 2007 – 21,660 compared to 20,930 in 2006 – but also made those decisions quicker than ever before.

By the end of last year the BIA was beating its target to have 40 per cent of new asylum cases concluded within six months, and the Agency is on track to conclude 60 per cent in under six months by the end of 2008.

In addition, the Government has committed to expanding the detention estate by the end of the year to increase the number of people who can be removed from the UK.

Border and Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, said :

“Stronger border controls are delivering falls in asylum claims – they're now at the lowest level for 14 years. And we are dealing with those cases faster than ever before.

“Overall today’s figures prove that last year we deported someone every eight minutes – and we got our priorities straight. We deported the highest ever number of foreign lawbreakers, up by a huge 80 per cent, and we attacked illegal working much harder because it undercuts British wages, with 40 per cent more illegal working operations.

“That helped us boost removals of non-asylum seekers to almost 50,000 – that’s nine per cent up on the year before. On top of this, we are dealing with cases faster than ever before - more than 40 per cent of asylum claims are dealt with from beginning to end in under six months.”

The BIA conducted 40 per cent more illegal working operations in 2007 than the previous year and removed a record 4,200 foreign criminals, surpassing the Prime Minister’s target for 2007. Between October and December 1,125 foreign national prisoners were removed – the seventh consecutive quarterly increase.

Mr Byrne added:

“We beat the Prime Minister’s target and the rate at which foreign national prisoners are being deported has almost doubled.”

This success is mirrored across Scotland and Northern Ireland. Since the Border and Immigration Agency was created in April 2007, 690 non-asylum offenders and 200 failed asylum seekers have been forcibly removed from the area. Local enforcement teams have carried out 200 illegal working operations.

Phil Taylor, Regional Director of the Agency, said:

"These figures are a positive start for us and show that illegal working and other immigration offences are being tackled wherever we find them across the Scotland and Northern Ireland.

“We are determined to stamp out illegal immigration. That’s why there are very strict rules about who can live and work in the UK and it’s becoming much harder to break them.

“We are removing significant numbers of immigration offenders including foreign criminals, asylum cheats, those who have tried to stay in the country after their visa has run out and illegal workers.”

Also published today are figures for the number of Bulgarians and Romanians registering to work in the UK. They show that in 2007 30,570 had their applications granted. An additional 7,295 were issued cards for the Seasonal Agricultural Workers scheme in 2007.

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 today's 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 (WRS). Between October and December 2007 the number of applications received was 50,000 a 23 per cent decrease from the 65,000 who applied in the same period last year. The annual figure also represents a decrease in WRS applicants from 234,725 in 2006 to 214,510 in 2007.

Mr Byrne said:

"It is too soon to evaluate the full impact of the accession of Bulgaria and Romania to the EU which is why we decided to maintain restrictions for at least another year. 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.”

Notes to Editors

1) Britain’s sweeping programme of border reform last year led to:

  • over one million lorries searched to check they were not harbouring illegal immigrants;
  • a record 18,000 people stopped from crossing the Channel illegally;
  • the number of clandestine entrants detected in Kent dropping by around 88 per cent, since the introduction of juxtaposed controls in 2002; and
  • the completion of the global roll-out of fingerprint visas. So far 1.2 million people have enrolled, and nearly 1,000 attempts at identity swaps have been uncovered.

2) Regional statistics have been rounded to the nearest 10. Based on provisional management information, they are subject to change.

3) The statistical publications are available at the following links:

The Q4 asylum statistics for 2007 are available at

http://www.homeoffice.gov.uk/rds/immigration1.html

The Bulgaria and Romania statistics are available at http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/Reports/bulgarianromanian/

The Accession Monitoring report is available at

http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/Reports/accession_monitoring_report/