Page last updated at 17:52 GMT, Thursday, 11 December 2008

Asylum seeker analysis ruled out

Officials compile data on nationalities most likely to be refused asylum

The home secretary has ruled out looking into why some asylum seekers are more likely to be turned away at the UK's ports than others.

Former Independent Race Monitor Mary Coussey called for an analysis of why certain nationalities were more likely to be refused entry.

The findings could be used to encourage a "balanced" debate, she added.

But Jacqui Smith disagreed, adding that "diverse passenger flows" meant decisions had to be made locally.

'Particular challenge'

In her report, relating to January 2007 to March this year, Ms Coussey says most actions were taken by immigration officers "based on interpretation of profiles, risk assessments, local knowledge and their experience".

For instance, she was told that, on the Calais-to-Dover route, there was known to be a "particular challenge" from child trafficking and smuggling from eastern Europe, Afghanistan and Pakistan.

We would disagree that the reasons for any increased rates and differences between ports should be examined
Jacqui Smith

Having looked at a selection of cases, Ms Coussey found there had been some "assumptions" about applicants for asylum but "far fewer than was the case in previous years".


In one example, involving a Kurdish Iraqi, an immigration officer is quoted as saying: "If you had lived in poverty, it is unlikely insurgents would target you for money.

"If they wanted money, they would go for your brother-in-law who was supporting you at the time."

The report says this was "a speculative assumption used to justify doubt [over] the applicant's account".

The government compiles data on the top 10 refusal rates, by nationality, at the UK's main ports.

Ms Coussey said: "The reasons for any increased rates and differences should be examined."

In her response, Ms Smith said: "Data by refusal rates by the top 10 nationalities refused in main ports continues to be collected and monitored, but we would disagree that the reasons for any increased rates and differences between ports should be examined.

"The major ports still have wide and diverse passenger flows which would influence any decision-making process."

For example, a "preponderance of abuse via low-cost carriers and routes may provide significantly different refusal rates of a specific nationality at one port set against high-cost routes and carriers operating into another.

"Likewise, forgery levels for each nationality may vary significantly per port because of carrier training, airline liaison officer resource or point of embarkation controls."

Net immigration to the UK increased by 46,000 to 237,000 in 2007, according to the Office for National Statistics.

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