'Backdoor amnesty' for failed asylum seekers in UK

Last Updated : 10 October 2010, 04:46 IST
Last Updated : 10 October 2010, 04:46 IST

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Asylum cases that were initially unsuccessful are now being approved at a rate of up to 2,000 a week, according to a report in The Sunday Times based on leaked Home Office figures.

Many are subject to only cursory checks in what the Tories have called a "backdoor amnesty".

The report said that Theresa May, the Home Secretary, is said to have been shocked when she discovered the scale of the shambles, inherited from Alan Johnson, her Labour predecessor. He is now shadow chancellor.

May is powerless to stop the programme as lawyers say it has created a precedent that could be used to launch a wave of legal actions from any asylum seekers who are now refused residency. Granting permanent residency is a precursor to full citizenship and entitles immigrants full benefits.

The decision is racking up massive future liabilities for taxpayers as each new permanent resident and their family can pick up between 500,000 pounds and 1 million pounds in lifetime benefits, the report claimed.

The leaked Home Office figures show that residency has been granted in 135,280 cases. If an estimated 100,000 dependants are included, the number of individuals allowed to stay rises to nearly 240,000.

When the existence of a backlog of 450,000 asylum cases first emerged in 2006, John Reid, the then home secretary, promised it would be cleared up.

The Tories have now discovered that rushing through hundreds of thousands of cases against a tight deadline meant proper checks on applicants' stories were not always made. Old cases were subject to simple paper reviews.

Only those applicants who were considered exceptional were sent questionnaires requiring additional information.

According to the report, cases are being dealt with at the rate of 3,000 a week, of which 1,500 to 2,000 are granted. It is believed that there are still another 120,000 left.
Unofficial estimates indicate asylum seekers given permanent residency have tripled in recent months.

The new figures show that 324,357 of the legacy cases had been dealt with by September 17. Of these, 135,280 were given indefinite leave to remain and only 34,979 asylum seekers were ordered to be removed from the country.

Officials discovered that a further 137,754 cases - 42 per cent of  the entire backlog - were either duplicates, errors or involved EU nationals, who are entitled to live here.
May is now reducing the number of appeals and increasing the proportion of those who are removed after their applications fail.

The ruling coalition is also clamping down on immigration to make it much harder for future asylum applicants to settle in Britain.

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "All 'legacy' cases are considered on their individual merits and we are confident that we will conclude the backlog by summer 2011."

Published 10 October 2010, 04:46 IST

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