Asylum cases head for 70,000 total

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The Independent Online
THE GROWING backlog of asylum cases was branded a "complete mess" yesterday by an immigration lawyer who is a Foreign Office minister's wife.

Government figures show that 7,000 asylum-seekers are arriving in Britain every month; this year's total is likely to be a record 70,000. It is estimated that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate, which deals with asylum, would take three years to clear the backlog of 100,000 if no further refugees arrived.

Maria Fernandes, who is married to Keith Vaz, the minister for Europe, is a member of the Home Office and immigration practitioners panel for co-operation on asylum and nationality issues.

"It's a complete mess. They are still losing things ... it's a state of complete chaos," she said.

Mrs Fernandes' comments followed her attempts to reunite an asylum-seeking Peruvian couple and their three children, which were frustrated by poor communications between the Foreign Office and the Home Office.

The Peruvian couple are seeking political asylum in the UK. The woman was attacked and badly beaten in an anti- government demonstration. In their rush to leave the country, the couple left their children, aged 5, 11 and 12, with the children's grandmother, who is dying of cancer.

Mrs Fernandes said she contacted the Foreign Office three months ago to ask for help in granting visiting rights to the children. Foreign Office officials said they would refer the case to the Home Office. "I realised that they had not referred the whole case. But they led me to believe they had." She added: "Because of the grandmother's illness these are exceptional compassionate circumstances."

She wants a mechanism allowing compassionate applications to be considered before the substantive application has been decided.