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Wednesday, 25 April, 2001, 15:48 GMT 16:48 UK
Asylum: Statistics and graphs
Find out what the figures on asylum in the UK really mean.

According to the latest Home Office figures the number of applications is declining.

As this first graph shows, monthly applications rose during 2000, reaching a high of 7,250 in November before beginning to fall.

Although the figures show a rise of 500 more applications for March, the trend remains downwards.

Initial decisions

The Home Office says that the 18,895 initial decisions taken by officials in March represents a record. Initial decisions fell last summer but recovered by November.

The government says that this shows that measures introduced last year to deal with the backlog of applicants are now paying dividends.

Of those decisions taken in March, slightly more applicants (25%) were recognised as asylum seekers or given leave to remain compared to February (24%).

This is a higher figure than in 2000 when approximately 22% of applications were allowed at the first stage.

These figures represent those granted asylum or exceptional leave to remain. They do not include those granted asylum on appeal or at any later stage.

What these headline figures show is that three-quarters of applicants are turned down.

But 27% of the cases initially rejected in 2000 were because of "non-compliance grounds".

Refugee agencies say that this typically means that the applicant failed to return forms correctly completed in English with case-supporting documentation within 14 days of arrival in the UK.

They argue that this huge number of rejected applicants are being falsely labelled as "bogus" even though their cases have not been judged.

If these cases are discounted from the 2000 headline figures, the actual number of applicants accepted at the first hurdle rises from 22% to 31%.

What the headline figures also mask is that there is a substantial number of rejected applicants who appeal against the original decision.

Appeals

March 2001 saw the highest monthly number of appeals yet against a decision to reject asylum - 10,925 people.

While this is more than a fifth of the total appeals made in 2000, the Home Office says that it reflects the higher monthly average of initial decisions being taken.

Less than a fifth of appeals were officially allowed - the total for March standing at 16% - but only a proportion of the appeals are being heard in anyone month.

In 2000 there were 46,190 appeals. Some 28,000 appeals reached the next stage where they were heard by an independent adjudicator.

Only 19,000 cases - two fifths of the total appeals - were actually determined, meaning that a substantial backlog of work has been developing.

Figures prompt debate

Asylum agencies say that the Home Office's decision to separate the "initial decision" figures from the appeal adjudication figures is preventing the public getting the full picture.

The headline figure for genuine applicants (22%) does not take into account the number of people granted asylum following an appeal or other intervention.

One of the groups which has protested against the Home Office's methodology, Asylum Aid, says that its own conservative calculations suggest that a third of those who appeal are allowed to stay.

If this were the case, says Asylum Aid, then immigration authorities are deeming at least half of all asylum seekers to be genuine.

Removals

The final issue is what happens to rejected applicants once appeals have been exhausted.

The government has acknowledged that only 9,000 rejected applicants from a target of 12,000 were removed from the UK in 2000.

Home Secretary Jack Straw has set a target for 30,000 rejected asylum seekers (comprising 24,000 applicants and 6,000 family members) to be removed this year.

Mr Straw says that there is no guarantee that the target will be met but 2,200 new immigration officers are being introduced.

The Refugee Council has criticised a recently introduced decision to begin chartering planes to deport rejected applicants, saying that there is no monitoring of what happens to these people once they leave the UK.

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