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Asylum (Fraudulent Applications)

Volume 229: debated on Thursday 22 July 1993

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress his Department has made in preventing fraudulent applications for asylum.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department
(Mr. Charles Wardle)

New procedures designed to deter bogus asylum applications were introduced in November 1991. Since then, the number of new asylum applications has nearly halved. The new Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act will also help significantly.

Conservative Members welcome the new asylum legislation. Will my hon. Friend join me in praising Dover immigration service for yesterday's highly successful raid on illegal visitors to this country? Will he confirm that one way of reducing the incidence of social security fraud would be to reduce the number of bogus asylum seekers?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right in saying that a number of bogus asylum seekers have been involved in social security fraud. There have already been 26 successful prosecutions, and a number of other cases are being investigated. One case involved a family of four from Zaire who had submitted more than 50 applications for income support and had been given 50 allocations of council housing. I join my hon. Friend in congratulating the immigration service on yesterday's successful operations near Ashford.

Does the Minister agree that reducing the time allowed for certain appeals against refusal of asylum to 48 hours is not only unfair and unjust, but a contravention of natural justice, resulting in judicial reviews, which in turn lead to yet more delay? When do the Government expect to meet their own pathetic target—set last November—of providing a safe haven for no more than 1,000 Bosnians? Or does the Minister consider such people, whom we see nightly on our television screens, to be nothing more than fraudulent claimants?

As the hon. Gentleman knows, and as he has been told time and again, the selection of ex-detainees and other vulnerable people in Bosnia is a matter for the experts on the ground—the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross. After the weeks and months that he has spent debating asylum during the current Session of Parliament, the hon. Gentleman really should have learnt that the 48-hour rule applies to those who have made manifestly unfounded applications and have been detained at ports. The hon. Gentleman does not seem to realise that by allowing such people to prolong their stay he would be delaying the consideration of genuine refugee cases in which people suffer genuine traumas.