Massive surge in asylum requests

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The Independent Online

A record number of applications for asylum were dealt with last month, according to new figures released by the Home Office today.

A total of 11,340 decisions were taken by immigration officers during March - four times the number being dealt with at the end of last year.

The number is also sharply up on the 7,865 applications dealt with in February - supporting claims from Home Secretary Jack Straw that the Government's shake-up of the asylum system is working.

Despite the increase in the number of applications dealt with, however, the figures also show large numbers of asylum-seekers still coming into the UK.

According to the statistics there were 6,680 applications for asylum in March - up from 6,110 in February.

Over the last three months applications averaged at 6,300 per month - 36% higher than the monthly average for the same period in 1999.

The largest number come from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia - Kosovo, Montenegro and Serbia.

This is followed by Sri Lanka, China, Afghanistan and Somalia.

Of the decisions made, 81% had their applications refused and 19% were either accepted as refugees or given "exceptional leave" to stay in the country.

The large number of cases dealt with also means the backlog has fallen to below 100,000 for the first time this year and now stands at 93,365.