The publication today of the annual asylum statistics for 2002 reveal that about half of all asylum applicants come from just five countries – all with long records of serious human rights violations.
Figures released today demonstrate that most people fleeing to the UK are forced to leave oppressive countries which are often torn apart through conflict. In recognition of this the Government figures reveal that the number of people granted protection, being given either Refugee Status, or Humanitarian Status (Exceptional Leave to Remain) has increased by 25% since 2001. 40% of initial decisions were successful in 2002 compared to 32% in 2001. A further 22% of appeals were overturned in 2002, compared to 19% in 2001. Overall, well over 50% of all applications are being granted permission to stay.
Headed up by Iraq, which accounts for nearly one in five asylum claims, the figures highlight the continuing need for refugee protection in a particularly volatile period of global instability, where the number of applications to the UK was 85.865 (2001: 71,365). Including dependants the number is estimated to be 110,700 (2001: 92,000 people).
The Foreign & Commonwealth Office attributes Iraqi asylum applications in the UK to Iraq’s appalling human rights record. Its dossier on Iraqi human rights abuses (‘Saddam Hussein: Crimes and Human Rights Abuses‘), published in December 2002, concludes:
“It is no wonder that, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in 2001, Iraqis have become the second largest group of refugees in the world. Iraqis also top the table of foreign nationals seeking asylum in the UK.”
The other top nationalities include Zimbabwe and Somalia. The figures make clear that increases in the numbers of asylum claims are the predictable result of increased instability and oppression.
The total picture of asylum claims for 2002 show that as situations in countries of origin change the numbers of asylum claims from those countries fall. Significantly, applications from Afghanistan and Sri Lanka are reducing. There were 3,180 asylum seekers from Sri Lanka last year. 1,240 arrived in the first quarter, compared to 420 in the fourth quarter. Compared to 2001 there was a decrease of 42%. (In 2001, there 5,510 asylum applications from Sri Lanka.)
The Refugee Council’s acting Chief Executive, Margaret Lally said:
“The Government wants to cut the number of asylum seekers coming to the UK. These figures show that this will only be achieved when the Government addresses the reasons why people flee. Half of all asylum seekers came here from just five countries, including Iraq and Zimbabwe. The Government has clearly – and rightly – indicated its disgust with these violent and oppressive regimes. This is reflected by the Government’s figures, which show it is offering sanctuary to well over 50% of asylum seekers.”
Home Office website, asylum statistics, final quarter 2002
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Saddam Hussein: crimes and human rights abuses, a report on the human cost of Saddam’s policies.