Thousands of Syrians applying to legally visit the UK are having their applications rejected by the Home Office over fears they may claim asylum, official figures unearthed by The Independent reveal.
An analysis of worldwide visa applications shows that the number of Syrians who have successfully applied for UK visas has fallen by more than 40 per cent since the start of the conflict.
The Home Office figures show in 2010, before the conflict in Syria started, the Government received 8,028 visa requests from Syrian passport-holders to come to the UK, of which 5,522 were granted. But last year, despite receiving 7,737 visa requests from Syrians, the number of applications granted dropped to just 3,283.
Immigration lawyer Greg Ó Ceallaigh, a barrister at Garden Court Chambers, said: “I think entry clearance officers are convinced that [Syrians] are going to claim asylum.”
Labour’s shadow immigration minister David Hanson described the statistics as “very worrying”.
“They appear to show the Home Office has been denying Syrian passport-holders a legal route to migration to Britain or indeed to visit at all,” he said. “They seem to back up anecdotal evidence … that relatives of Syrians in the UK have been denied visas to enter the country since the conflict began.”
Meanwhile more than 1.4 million petition signatures and pledges of support will be presented to MPs on Wednesday in an effort to force David Cameron to take immediate action to combat the refugee crisis, after the Government’s pledge to resettle 20,000 refugees was criticised by campaigners for not being more generous.
More than 375,000 people have now signed The Independent’s petition, while hundreds of thousands more have backed campaigns by Save the Children, Amnesty International UK and Refugee Action.
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