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 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 20:46 GMT
Blunkett wins asylum ruling
Oakington reception centre, Cambs
Numbers are dropping at the centre in Oakington
The Court of Appeal has backed government asylum seeker policy that led to a flagship holding centre standing almost empty, the Home Office has said.

The court's decision upheld Home Secretary David Blunkett's policy to refuse asylum seekers permission to stay in the UK while they appeal against a refusal.

The Home Secretary... is very pleased indeed that we have won this critical case

Home Office spokeswoman
It has led to the Oakington reception centre in Cambridgeshire controversially holding just 32 applicants compared to the 250 it was built to house.

Reports estimated the cost to the government of running the centre for such a small number could amount to 9,000 a week for each asylum seeker.

But a Home Office spokesman said the court's decision on Friday supported the procedures taken at Oakington, and had been welcomed by Mr Blunkett.

The case - brought by two Czech asylum seekers - represents the first time this policy has been challenged in the appeal courts.

Right to return

Home Office minister John Denham told the BBC on Thursday that the drop in numbers at Oakington was due to a new measure "to restrict the ability of people from European Union countries and future members of the European Union to claim asylum here".

David Blunkett
David Blunkett fears an asylum backlash in the UK
The new measure was upheld by the Court of Appeal.

It gives the government the right to return asylum applicants from EU accession countries to their country of origin as soon as their application has been rejected.

The rule does not permit applicants to stay in Britain while they appeal against the decision.

'Fair opportunity'

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The Home Secretary welcomes the judgment and is very pleased indeed that we have won this critical case.

"He is pleased that the Court of Appeal has found that procedure at Oakington does offer applicants a fair opportunity to demonstrate that their case is arguable."

She said if the policy had been reversed it could have "completely undermined" part of its Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act.

"This demonstrates that we are taking firm action which is delivering results," she added.


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23 Jan 03 | Politics
23 Jan 03 | Politics
20 Jan 03 | England
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