Miss Widdecombe said that changes by Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, to the immigration rules, including the abolition of the much-loathed "primary-purpose rule", had sent out the wrong message to asylum-seekers. "The blame for this lies with Jack Straw," she said.
"The signals the Government has been sending out over the last couple of years is that Britain is a soft touch and if you come here it is going to be fairly ease to disappear, because it is an easy place to work illegally."
The Government denied the claims, but Miss Widdecombe's attack will add fuel to the growing concern about the handling of asylum-seekers in Britain following clashes in Dover last weekend.
A big police operation was under way yesterday to limit the risk of more violence between locals and asylum-seekers in the Kent town. Closed-circuit television cameras were erected in the Folkestone Road area, where tension between locals and refugees erupted, in an attempt to deter trouble-makers and to catch on film those causing problems.
Kent County Council leaders have held talks with the Home Office minister Lord Bassam of Brighton about moving some of the 800 asylum-seekers in Dover to other parts of the country.
The council promised to move 150 of the refugees out of the town by tomorrow and is looking to tighten border controls. Liverpool City Council offered to take up to 40 asylum- seekers to help to relieve the pressure on Kent.
Over the weekend it was also said that the Home Office will this week announce that the total seeking asylum in Britain will reach a record of 68,000 this year compared with 47,000 applications last year.
Police in Calais said that asylum- seekers regard Britain as an Eldorado.
Applications for asylum were running at an estimated 200 a day in June as the movement of people from war, economic distress and famine in Eastern Europe and Africa reached a peak.