'Refugees' who beg to face swift action

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New measures to deal swiftly with asylum-seekers caught begging were announced by the Immigration minister, Barbara Roche, yesterday.

Details of any foreign nationals arrested for begging would be passed immediately to immigration officials, she said.

If they were asylum-seekers, or put in a claim for asylum, their cases will be fast-tracked through the system.

In a Commons written answer, Mrs Roche said: "It is my policy to ensure that all asylum- seekers, including those convicted of begging, whose applications are unfounded, are removed from the United Kingdom as quickly as possible."

Details of all foreign nationals caught begging by the police would be passed to acentral contact point in the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. Officers would check the person's immigration status. Any who make an application for asylum or who have applications outstanding would be interviewed.

Mrs Roche said the applications and any subsequent appeal would be "fast-tracked". In response to a question from the Tory home affairs spokesman David Lidington, Mrs Roche said measures were due to come into effect later this year to speed appeals and the removal of people who lost cases.