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Wednesday, 31 January, 2001, 17:58 GMT
Ministers blamed for asylum claims surge
asylum seeker
UK rapped for not expelling bogus asylum seekers
The government is contributing to the record number of asylum seekers in the UK by failing to remove people staying here illegally, according to a cross-party report by MPs.


You promised that the new asylum laws would deter bogus asylum seekers. You have once again miserably failed to deliver

William Hague to Tony Blair
Only a small proportion of those entering the UK illegally and refused asylum have been sent home, said the Commons home affairs select committee.

Its report provided fresh ammunition for Conservative leader William Hague's attack on the government's asylum record.

At prime minister's questions on Wednesday Mr Hague seized on the latest Home Office figures showing a record number of asylum seekers coming to Britain.

He accused Prime Minister Tony Blair of having failed in his promise to deter "bogus" asylum applications.

"You promised that the new asylum laws would deter bogus asylum seekers. You have once again miserably failed to deliver," he said.

Sharp fall in applications

But Mr Blair said decisions on asylum applications were now outstripping claims, and that there had been a sharp fall last month.

William Hague
William Hague: 'much tougher approach'
He accused the Tories of opposing "tough" government measures to curb unfounded applications.

Mr Blair said other countries had also experienced a surge in claims, adding that the government had ended cash benefits to asylum seekers and introduced fines on those bringing them into the country.

Britain 'a soft touch'

But the Tory leader accused the government of being "unfailingly weak" on asylum and making Britain a "soft touch" for those seeking refugee status.

He promised that the Tories would take a "much tougher approach", and has already signalled that he will make the number of asylum seekers with unfounded claims an election issue.

The MPs' report reveals that in 1999 enforcement action was taken against 22,880 asylum seekers but less than a third of that number were removed from the country.

In the same year, nearly 10,700 people were refused asylum and 2,760 people who had been refused asylum - either in that year or earlier - were removed.

No records

The Labour-dominated committee noted that the Home Office did not record whether failed asylum seekers, students, or visitors had left the country - adding to the UK's "pull factor" to people with "doubtful" refugee status.


We conclude that the Home Office has been dilatory in enforcing the removal of people whose asylum claims have been refused

Home affairs select committee
The MPs said they welcomed extra money for enforcement work but believed that a target of removing 30,000 failed asylum seekers over the next year seemed "very ambitious".

"We conclude that the Home Office has been dilatory in enforcing the removal of people whose asylum claims have been refused and others who have gained illegal entry to the UK.

"This in itself has attracted more people to the UK," the MPs noted.

The committee said that members had been "shocked" to see hundreds of people at a Red Cross centre near Calais, waiting to make "repeated" hazardous and illegal crossings to the UK to seek asylum.

The latest Home Office figures show there were more than 75,000 applications last year, compared with 71,160 in 1999.

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See also:

31 Dec 00 | UK Politics
Heseltine stirs asylum row
27 Jun 00 | Europe
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11 May 00 | UK Politics
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