Sharp fall in asylum seekers arriving in UK

The number of asylum seekers arriving in Britain has fallen sharply, according to official figures released today.

The Home Office said there were 4,765 applications for asylum in the final three months of last year - a 30% fall on the 6,778 applications made in same period the previous year.

But the number leaving the UK was down 3%, with 16,340 departing in the last quarter of 2009 - either voluntarily or through enforced removal - compared to 16,820 in 2008.

There was an 8% fall to 2,605 in the number of asylum seekers leaving and a 2% drop to 13,735 in the number of people departing in non-asylum cases.

Overall, the number of visas issued was up 16% from 364,060 to 423,595.

The number of applications for British citizenship was up 30% from 39,325 to 51,315, while the numbers who were granted UK passports rose 15% from 38,955 to 44,870.

A fall in the number of workers from Poland given permission to work in the UK was offset by a sharp rise in the numbers coming from the Baltic states of Latvia and Lithuania.

While the approved initial applicants from Poland under the worker registration scheme fell from 16,970 to 12,125, the numbers of Latvians more than doubled from 1,965 to 5,035 while the Lithuanians were up from 2,710 to 4,250.

Overall the number of improved applicants under the scheme was 26,650, down from 28,835 in the final quarter of 2008 and 50,820 in the same period in 2007.