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Thursday, 25 May, 2000, 13:42 GMT 14:42 UK
Fewer seek UK asylum
Asylum seeker
Under 6,000 applications for asylum made last month
There has been a drop in the number of people seeking asylum in the UK, according to government figures.

A total of 5,890 applications were made in April, the smallest monthly total since May 1999, said the Home Office.

But between February and April requests averaged 6,230 a month - 32% more than the 4,715 figure for the same period last year.

We are confident we have taken proper measures to deter people making unfounded claims

Barbara Roche
Immigration minister

Initial decisions were given in 9,650 cases during April, 15% fewer than March's record of 11,340 but still well above the 2,320 processed in December.

Immigration minister Barbara Roche said: "Quite clearly these figures are the result of all the measures we have brought in to speed up the asylum process and make it fairer and faster."

"We are very proud of our long-standing tradition of providing refuge to genuine asylum seekers and are confident we have taken proper measures to deter people making unfounded claims."

The Conservatives gave the news a cautious welcome but said the government was still not doing enough.

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A spokesperson for shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe said: "We cautiously welcome these figures and would like to see this fall replicated in the coming months.

"But our grave suspicion, based on the government's almost total failure to create a fairer and firmer asylum system, is that this reduction may be short-lived."

"The government has done too little too late and has put forward the view that Britain is a soft-touch for asylum seekers."

The Tories claim all asylum seekers coming into Britain should be detained in reception centres and each case should be fast tracked.

Until this is done, they say, the genuine asylum seeker's claim will continue to be clogged up in a waiting list of almost 100,000 applications.

In 1995-96 about 420m was spent directly on supporting asylum seekers. In 1999-2000 that figure rose to 590m.

The government aims to cut the time it takes to make an initial decision on all asylum application from 13 months to two months by April 2001.

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See also:

02 May 00 | UK Politics
Ministers plan more asylum places
22 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Tory asylum policy warning
11 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Asylum cost under fire
10 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Parties defend asylum comments
10 Apr 00 | Europe
Europe toughens asylum policies
14 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Government defends race record
19 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Tories deny 'racism' jibe
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