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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 February 2008, 13:50 GMT
UK work applications near 800,000
An immigration officer searches a car
Asylum applications are falling, the Home Office said
Nearly 800,000 eastern Europeans have applied to work in the UK after the expansion of the European Union four years ago, new figures have shown.

The Home Office also claimed their research shows someone was deported from the country "every eight minutes".

It focuses on Poland and seven other eastern European countries that joined the European Union (EU).

Asylum applications in 2007 were also shown to be at their lowest level for 14 years, the figures indicate.

There have been a total of 796,000 applications to register for work in the UK from the so-called "A8 countries" - the eight poorest east European countries that joined the EU in May 2004 - of which 766,000 were approved.

We deported the highest ever number of foreign law-breakers - up by a huge 80% - and we attacked illegal working much harder
Immigration Minister Liam Byrne

The level of successful applications has been welcomed by employers, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has claimed, because their work ethic is often better than the native workforce.

The statistics do not include the self-employed or those from Romania and Bulgaria, which joined the EU later.

In relation to social security benefits, the Home Office figures showed just over 89,000 immigrants from these countries are claiming child benefit, with claims for a range of other benefits also detailed.

Separate Government data showed that following the inclusion of Bulgaria and Romania into the EU at the start of this year, a further 30,570 people from those countries were granted their applications to work in the UK.

IMMIGRANT BENEFIT CLAIMS
766,000 approved applications
89,000 claiming child benefit
51,500 claiming tax credits
4,900 on financial benefits
1,021 on homelessness support

There has, however, been a decline in asylum applications, the Home Office said.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said: "[The] 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 law-breakers - up by a huge 80% - and we attacked illegal working much harder because it undercuts British wages, with 40% more illegal working operations."

David Frost, director general of the BCC, said those in the UK legally are a welcome addition to the workforce.

'Skills shortage'

"Employers up and down the country tell me that they take on migrant workers because their work ethic is so much better than domestic workers," he said.

"[But] the vast majority of these jobs could have been filled by UK residents.

"Until the government gets to grips with this country's severe skills shortage and increasing welfare dependency culture, businesses will continue to employ migrant workers in large numbers."

The so-called A8 countries are: Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia.



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