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Asylum Seekers

Volume 264: debated on Thursday 19 October 1995

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement about the number of asylum seekers. [36518]

The number of asylum applications in the United Kingdom rose from 22,400 in 1993 to 32,800 in 1994—an increase of 45 per cent. The figures are continuing to rise sharply and are expected to exceed 40,000 in 1995. Few applicants are genuine refugees. It is clear that further action is needed to strengthen our defences against exploitation of our asylum system. A statement about that will be made shortly.

Does my hon. Friend agree that many so-called asylum seekers regard this country as a soft touch? Is it not the case that 80 per cent. of people who apply for asylum in this country eventually have to return home? Is not it the case also that some people who apply for asylum are illegal immigrants facing deportation from this country? Does not the whole country—with the exception of Opposition Front Benchers—welcome the Government's determination to clamp down on bogus asylum seekers, so that genuine cases can be dealt with much more quickly?

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. Only 5 per cent. of appeals against our refusals are upheld. Asylum is often used as a last resort by people who have exhausted every other possible method, including illegal entry. We are tired of being taken for a ride, and it is undeniably true that, genuine applicants suffer from the activities of applicants who are not genuine. It is our firm intention to curtail their activities.