More than £200m of taxpayers' money went on legal aid for asylum and immigration cases last year, the government says.
Asylum cases take 9% of the total legal aid bill
A provisional total of £204m for 2003-4 is nearly 16% higher than the previous year's figure of £176.2m.
The rise came despite the halving of asylum applications last year.
Constitutional Affairs Minister David Lammy revealed immigration and asylum cases accounted for 9.2% of the total legal aid bill for England and Wales.
The previous year it accounted for 7.4% of the total, and in 1998-99 it was 3.2%.
The asylum legal aid bill has been at the centre of a row for months - with ministers pledging to cut it - but campaigners saying doing so would prevent proper access to justice.
Home Secretary David Blunkett sought to cut rights to appeal in the current Asylum and Immigration Bill - but has since dropped the proposal.
The legislation had proposed outlawing the right to appeal asylum decisions in the High Court through judicial review.
But on Monday the Lord Chancellor Lord Falconer said he would make changes to the appeals plans so judges could supervise the system.
Lord Falconer said the system both had to be fair and cut down on abuses.
But Conservative home affairs spokesman David Davis said the government's "failure to manage" the asylum system had caused "complete chaos".
"If the government want to cut the spiralling legal aid budget, a good step would be to bring the asylum system under control," he said.