Asylum seekers' total rises by 55% in a year

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The Independent Online

The number of asylum seekers applying to stay in Britain last year rose by 55 per cent, according to latest figures.

The number of asylum seekers applying to stay in Britain last year rose by 55 per cent, according to latest figures.

The Home Office statistics were boosted by a large increase in the number of refugees from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, in particular its troubled southern province of Kosovo.

A total of 71,100 asylum applications were received over the year - with 11,465 coming from Kosovo, Serbia and Montenegro. Nearly 80 per cent of the 7,800 applications granted were to refugees from Kosovo and the two Yugoslav republics.

More refugees entered the United Kingdom from Kosovo under a special evacuation procedure, which lasted for 12 months.

Of the 4,409 people who arrived under this procedure, more than 3,300 had returned by the end of July this year.

A further 2,500 asylum seekers from throughout the world were not recognised as refugees but were granted exceptional leave to remain, allowing them to apply to settle after four years in the UK.

Another 11,100 were granted leave under a special backlog clearance exercise.

The speeding up of the decision process means the backlog is continuing to diminish, said a Home Office spokesman.

"We have already made 73,000 decisions on cases in the first eight months of this year," the spokesman said.

There were 33,700 decisions in total last year.

The majority of applicants were young, with an average age of just 27, and two-thirds of them were male.

There was also an increase in the number of asylum seekers removed or who voluntarily left the UK, up to 7,600.

Asylum applications to European Union countries rose for the third consecutive year, with Germany continuing to receive the highest number of applications, followed by the UK.

The figures are likely to fuel debate in the wake of this week's Runnymede Trust report on multiculturalism in Britain. The report called for better financial and legal support for asylum seekers.

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