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Volume 497: debated on Tuesday 13 October 2009

I write today to inform the House of changes we are making to the way in which we register initial asylum applications and further submissions, where someone whose appeal rights have been exhausted asks us to re-examine their claim on the basis of further information or a change in their personal circumstances.

In February 2003 we announced that anyone wishing to make an asylum claim would need to do so in person, and postal applications for asylum would no longer be accepted. We expect individuals to make their claim at a port of entry, where they will be screened and any request for support will be considered. This change was made as part of our reform of the asylum system and has ensured that applications are gripped at the beginning of the system, identity of the applicant is verified and cases are routed quickly to the responsible caseowner to progress the case.

Since then, we have made great progress in processing asylum applications as quickly as possible. We reached our target of concluding 60 per cent. of new asylum cases within six months in December 2008 and we continue to set ourselves challenging targets for the conclusion of cases. We have also been working closely with the UNHCR to improve the quality of our decision making.

There are, however, parts of the system where information is not gripped as quickly, and it is this we are seeking to address with the changes we will make today. When applicants have exhausted their appeal rights, they often provide further submissions asking us to reconsider their claims. Currently, individuals can still make their further submissions by post.

From 14 October, anyone wishing to make a further submission will need to do so in person by appointment, and we will stop accepting further submissions by post. The following arrangements will be in place:

those who claimed asylum before 5 March 2007, and whose case is being managed by CRD, will be required to make any further submissions by appointment and in person at Liverpool Further Submissions Unit;

those who claimed on or after 5 March 2007 will be required to make any further submissions in person at a specified reporting centre in their region.

In the very exceptional case where a person is genuinely unable to attend one of these sites, alternative arrangements will be made to ensure that person can still make further submissions.

It is important that anyone seeking asylum does so at the first opportunity, and we continue to expect individuals to make their asylum claim at the port of entry, on arrival.

From 14 October, it will no longer be possible for initial asylum applications to be made in Liverpool, and anyone wishing to make an initial asylum application in country will be required to do so in person at the Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon.