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Asylum Applications

Volume 450: debated on Monday 23 October 2006

18. What the average time taken was to reach an initial decision on an asylum application (a) in respect of people held at (i) Harmondsworth and (ii) Oakington and (b) overall in the latest period for which figures are available. (95436)

The time for initial decisions at Harmondsworth and Oakington was 14 days and 12 days respectively. Overall, 76 per cent. of initial claims are decided within eight weeks, compared with 20 months in 1996. My briefing then reads: “These figures are taken from internal management information and may be subject to change prior to publication in official Home Office statistics”.

If it takes only 14 days at Harmondsworth and far longer for asylum seekers in the community, does not that show that it is in the interests of asylum seekers for the Government to have reception centres so that asylum seekers can sort out their right to stay much more quickly, and be allowed to work more quickly? That will help refugees do what they what to do, which is to pay their way; it will also, incidentally, save the taxpayer money.

We use detained fast track when we are certain that there is a high likelihood of removal. It is one of a range of tactics. On the continent, of course, tactics are different; there is much greater use of reception centres. The important point for my hon. Friend is that when we look across Europe we see that the UK is now 14th for asylum applications per capita. In the last quarter for which data are available the fall in applications in the UK was 24 per cent., while the fall in the EU was just 11 per cent. When we look at the range of tactics deployed in the UK compared with many other countries we can see how far ahead we are.