Appeals against deportations will treble in a year

Legal challenges by asylum-seekers will treble by the end of next year, the Lord Chancellor warned yesterday.

Lord Irvine of Lairg predicted that because of the Home Office's measures to speed up the processing of asylum applications, appeals would jump from 19,000 a year to 58,000 in 2001. The announcement follows a report published last month which concluded that the Government's asylum support scheme, introduced this year, which includes vouchers payments instead of cash, is likely to be the subject of "frequent and early challenge" before the courts.

Sir Jeffery Bowman, who was asked by Lord Irvine to propose changes to the Crown Office List - which deals with asylum and immigration appeals - said that was also true of the new powers to disperse asylum seekers throughout the country. Sir Jeffery said that the changes would lead to a "flood" of new legal challenges.

Yesterday Lord Irvine announced "robust plans", jointly prepared with the Home Office, to ensure the Immigration Appellate Authority (IAA) would "continue to handle asylum appeal cases smoothly and expeditiously." He said the Immigration and Asylum Act will introduce a "one-stop appeal process" so applicants will have to disclose all grounds of appeal at the outset.

Lord Irvine added: "I have strengthened judicial management by appointing a High Court Judge as Tribunal President. I have also increased the number of Adjudicators, members of the Tribunal, and staff working at the IAA."

Last month he announced an extra £23m for legal advice in immigration and asylum cases to improve legal representation at hearings, so speeding up the process.

Yesterday, two Iranian asylum-seekers were taken to hospital from Rochester Prison in Kent after spending more than 30 days on hunger strike in protest at their proposed deportation. Elsewhere, police arrested six asylum-seekers in Newcastle upon Tyne after more than 40 windows were smashed during an outbreak of serious disorder at a hostel on Wednesday night.

The violence is believed to have been in protest against the amount of money they are given, the quality of food and the standard of accommodation at the Angel Heights hostel in Westgate Road. Five men were arrested on suspicion of causing the damage and a sixth for breach of the peace.

A spokesman for Northumbria Police said: "Following the arrests 80 residents moved outside to the front of the building.

"The situation became volatile and police reinforcements were called. Lengthy discussions took place [between police and protesters]which resulted in the residents returning to the hostel. There were no further arrests."