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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 January, 2005, 18:44 GMT
India added to 'safe' asylum list
Asylum seekers in centre
Ninety-five percent of applications from Indians in 2004 were rejected
Asylum seekers from India whose applications are rejected and certified as "clearly unfounded" will soon be unable to appeal while still in the UK.

India is to join a list of nations from which people seeking asylum have claims fast-tracked, the Home Office has said.

If the claim fails and the applicant cannot prove it was not "clearly unfounded", they may only appeal after being removed from the UK.

Home Office Minister Des Browne said India was "generally a safe country".

He said: "Adding India to the list of safe countries is part of our drive to prevent failed asylum seekers from attempting to frustrate their removal from the UK by unnecessarily prolonging the appeals process.

"We have, for the time being, suspended enforced removals of failed asylum seekers to the southern coast of India, in line with our overall policy on areas affected by the tsunami.

"India, however, is generally a safe country where people are not routinely fleeing for their lives, and very few people need our protection under the refugee convention."

Some 1,305 Indian nationals applied for asylum between January and November 2004, but 95% of those bids were refused.

"While we will, of course, continue to make all decisions on a case by case basis, it is only right that if an asylum seeker does not require our protection they should return home when it is safe to do so," Mr Browne said.

Stopping people from being able to appeal an asylum decision inside the UK runs the very real risk that they could be wrongly returned to face persecution or worse
Refugee Council spokesman

The decision to add India to the "safe countries" list follows an Immigration and Nationality Directorate fact-finding mission to the country and consideration of information used by the government on the country's general safety.

But a Refugee Council spokesman said: "No country can be safe for all people all of the time.

"Stopping people from being able to appeal an asylum decision inside the UK runs the very real risk that they could be wrongly returned to face persecution or worse."

The organisation said 55 appeals brought by Indian nationals in 2003 against Home Office decisions had been successful.

"If this rule had applied then, all would have been forced back to India before their appeals could be considered with potentially grave consequences," the spokesman said.

A spokesman for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said: "We have longstanding concerns about fast-tracking and the issue of 'safe countries', because we feel you have to decide every case on its merits.

"We don't see many asylum claims from India, and it is true that on the whole India is democratic, but this doesn't mean that there aren't severe human rights abuses going on in pockets of India from which people might be genuinely fleeing."

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