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Home Office says UK is no 'refuge for war criminals' after 100 suspects rejected by border officials since 2012

In total, 800 applicants were investigated as possible suspects

Almost 100 suspected war criminals have applied to live in the UK in the last year and a half, is was revealed today.

Figures revealed by a a Freedom of Information request made by the BBC showed Home Office researchers found evidence against 99 people who had applied for British citizenship, asylum or leave to remain in the UK. A further 16 war crimes suspects had applied to enter the UK.

The majority of cases involved people already likely to have been living in Britain for a number of years. The applicants were from countries including Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, Rwanda, Serbia and Sri Lanka.

In total, 800 applicants were investigated as possible suspects.

Of the 99, three were deported, 20 were refused asylum and 46 had their citizenship bids turned down but are likely to have remained in the UK. It is not known what happened to the other 23.

Michael McCann MP, chairman of a cross-party parliamentary group to prevent genocide, said: "The organisation in the Home Office that used to deal with this - the UKBA (UK Border Agency) - was a basket case. It had failed on so many different levels I've lost count.

"I have deep concerns that the Home Office isn't being as forthright as it could be and I think we should be drilling down into these cases in order to give the public of our country that security."

A Home Office spokesperson said: "The government is determined that the UK should not become a refuge for war criminals. Anyone accused of these crimes should be put on trial in their home country and we will always seek to return them to face justice.”

Often a trial in a foreigner's home country is judged unsafe by UK courts and proves impossible.

In May, five Rwandans living in Britain for more than a decade were arrested on an extradition warrant by the Metropolitan Police on suspicion of involvement in their country's 1994 genocide.

Four of them had been similarly arrested in 2009, but the High Court ruled that they could not be returned to face trial for mass murder because although there was a prima facie case to answer there was a “real risk they would suffer a flagrant denial of justice”.

Vincent Bajinya, Celestin Ugirashebuja, Charles Munyaneza, Emmanuel Nteziryayo and Celestin Mutabaruka, all deny any involvement. A provisional date for the full hearing of the extradition request had been set for October.