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Government response on Public Accounts Committee report | Immigration Matters

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UK Border Agency Press Release  

The Government has responded to the House of Commons Public Accounts Committee report ‘Management of Asylum Applications’, which was published on 16 June 2009.

Border and Immigration Minister Phil Woolas said:

‘I’m pleased the Committee recognises we’re making significant progress, and have already addressed many of their recommendations.

‘The public have made it clear they expect us to target the most harmful people first – that’s why we removed a record 5,400 foreign criminals last year.

‘But that doesn’t mean we’re resting on our laurels in other areas. In 2008 over 66,000 people were removed or voluntarily departed – that’s a 5 per cent increase on the previous year. We’re also expanding our detention capacity to create 60 per cent more places, and now have nearly 3,000 bed spaces.

‘The UK Border Agency has already strengthened checks on decision-making, recruited more staff and reached a key milestone to conclude over 60 per cent of new asylum cases within six months.’

The UK Border Agency has always focused on removing those who could cause harm to the United Kingdom, and record numbers of foreign national prisoners were removed in the last couple of years.

We expect to increase our rate of overall removals by:

concluding more new asylum cases within six months – an extra 270 case owners will soon be in place following a successful national recruitment campaign, and further campaigns are being planned;

making use of our increased detention capacity (including 426 new beds for single males at Brook House near Gatwick, which opened in March 2009);

improving our processes for securing travel documents, booking flights and escorts – following a successful pilot, we will be rolling out a new process nationally from next month; and

building sustainable arrangements with overseas countries to return foreign prisoners, failed asylum seekers and other immigration offenders.

By reducing the time taken to conclude new asylum cases, we are reducing our costs – asylum support costs are £550 million lower than they were in 2003/4, and we expect to be able to reduce them further.

We are also taking action to reform the appeals process to speed up appeals, control abusive legal challenges and deliver more effective immigration control.

To improve the quality of our asylum decisions and reduce the number of cases that go to appeal, senior caseworkers and line managers are now reviewing at least 10 per cent of all asylum decisions. A dedicated team conducts regular quality assessments, and we work closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), which has praised the quality of our asylum as exemplary.

Over 155,500 older, ‘legacy’ asylum cases had been concluded by January 2009, and we are confident that we are going to meet our target to conclude all the legacy cases by 2011.cases by 2011.

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