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September 1998, Volume 5, Number 9

UK: Asylum Reform

The White Paper on asylum reform released July 27, 1998 was discussed in August. One of the major issues is the proposal that asylum applicants be dispersed around the UK, as in Germany, rather than being concentrated in London.

After implementation, asylum seekers will be offered accommodation and in-kind benefits in, for example, the Midlands or Scotland, but they will not be able to choose where they will be sent. The Home Office, not the Social Security Department and local councils, will administer the in-kind benefit system. Under the new policy, decisions and appeals on asylum applications are to be concluded within six months.

The White Paper concluded that support for asylum seekers cost L400 million in 1997. Under the proposed reforms, the cost is projected to drop to L350 million in 1999.

Between 1989 and 1998, some 267,000 foreigners applied for asylum in the UK. Only six percent of these applicants have been recognized as refugees-- one-third of those recognized as refugees have completed college. Most asylum applicants have: (1) not yet received a decision; or (2) disappeared.

There are about 51,000 "old asylum cases" in the UK, some involving foreigners who applied in the early 1990s, and have not yet received a decision on their application. Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, insisted that there would be no general amnesty, but suggested that 10,000 people and their families who arrived before July 1993 and whose applications have not yet been considered in July 1998 would be given "indefinite leave to stay." Those who applied between July 1993 and December 1995, and could show that they had established family or community ties, could be granted leave to remain in the UK for at least four years.

Enforcement. About 550 foreigners a month are apprehended attempting to enter the UK concealed in freight containers that arrive by ferry in Dover, a port that receives an average 3,500 containers a day. Albanians/Yugoslavs, Chinese and Sri Lankans are most frequently apprehended.

According to police, in some cases they receive a tip that a truck has illegal foreigners. While they locate one or two foreigners, other trucks with 40 or 50 foreigners attempt entry. For the past four years, police dogs have been used to search for foreigners.

Richard Holliday, "Illegal human trade that fell off the back of a lorry," August 5, 1998. "Abuse and asylum," Daily Telegraph, July 29, 1998.