The UN announcement comes after the Home Office had already been accused of ignoring the needs of refugees fleeing war and human rights abuses, by commentators angered at the government’s triumphalism over the reduction in asylum applications.
Figures released by the government last week showed the number of asylum applications in the UK falling to 3,610 in June 2003. David Blunkett commented: “These figures show that the tough measures the government has put in place to prevent illegal immigration and tackle abuse of the asylum system are working. We now have half as many claims as we did nearly a year ago.”
“The changing situation in Afghanistan, Iraq and Sri Lanka has also played a part and this is reflected elsewhere in Europe. But claims have fallen more than twice as much in the UK than elsewhere in Europe because of our tough measures.”
However, UN figures released yesterday showing drops in the number asylum seekers across the industrialised west in the second quarter of this year undermined the Home Secretary’s claim that government policy had cut the number of applications in the UK.
The UN reported that in addition to a 34% quarterly decrease in the UK, other European countries also saw significant reductions, including drops of 31% in Spain and Ireland, a 24% drop in Germany, and a reduction of 22% in Sweden.
The humiliation for David Blunkett follows attacks on the government by commentators angered at the victorious tone the Home Office adopted in announcing the drop in asylum applications and the emphasis it placed on the on the figures.
Commentators have attempted to throw a spotlight on the plight of those seeking asylum, and have accused the government of ignoring the needs of refugees fleeing war and human rights abuses.
The Refugee Council has pointed out that the main countries of origin for asylum applicants, according to the Home Office figures, are Somalia, Zimbabwe and China, all of which have poor human rights records.
Maeve Sherlock said: “Simply preventing people from entering the UK cannot be referred to as a success when some of those people may be in desperate need of our help.”
The Refugee Council is also concerned that government action may be deterring individuals from applying for asylum once in the country.
Sherlock commented: “Forcing asylum seekers who do manage to get here into homelessness and destitution has a negligible effect on numbers and is frankly inhumane.
“If the government wishes to see a long term, sustainable reduction in numbers it must take into account and address the root causes of forced migration and accept that driving asylum seekers out on to the streets helps no-one”.
The Refugee Council was joined by the Institute for Public Policy Research, a think-tank known for its close links to New Labour, which also chose to speak out against the government’s asylum policy.
IPPR said that people fleeing war and human rights abuses are being prevented from reaching the UK by tough asylum policies that have been introduced this year. It also said that measures intended to deter economic migrants were excluding those in need of protection.
Dr Heaven Crawley commented: “The Home Office has introduced a range of measures which it believes will deter and prevent economic migrants from using the asylum system to avoid UK immigration controls. At the same time it has pledged to provide protection to those genuinely in need.
“If the measures had been successful in meeting both these objectives, we would expect to see the number of those granted refugee status increase proportionately. The fact that we have not suggests that the measures fail to differentiate between those who are genuinely in need of protection and those who are not.”
She continued: “The reduction in the number of applications has been achieved principally by making it difficult for everyone, regardless of their circumstances, to get into the UK.”
It also emerged earlier this week that the UN’s high commissioner for refugees had written to the lord chancellor, Lord Falconer, criticising the government for plans to cut publicly funded legal advice to asylum seekers making their case to immigration officers from 100 hours to a maximum of five hours.
The UN warned that the proposal to limit the availability of legal advice will harm deserving and vulnerable asylum seekers who have to navigate an unfamiliar legal system, often with poor English language skills.
The government’s concern with being able to show it has reduced the number of asylum applications in the UK comes after concerted campaigns by national newspapers, such as the Daily Express and The Sun, to pressure the government on the issue.
The Home Office figures released last week showed that the number of asylum applicants fell to 3,610 in June 2003, apparently putting the government on track to meet its target to halve the 8,770 applications in October 2002. In addition, the new figures showed a 20% increase in the number of forced removals of asylum applicants.
The Home Office claimed that radical reforms in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 had contributed to the reduction in asylum applications.
These measures included a list of designated safe countries to which refused applicants can be removed quickly with no right of appeal in the UK, restricting access to benefits for those who do not claim as soon as reasonably practicable, and a new shared EU database of fingerprints that can reveal if someone has already claimed asylum in another EU country.
When fire safety has become a privilege for the rich, it’s time to stop austerity and fund emergency mass works to raise standards immediately, writes Jane Shallice
The election result has irreversibly changed political discourse in the UK, writes James Fox
In commemoration of the 30th anniversary of Bernie Grant's election to parliament, Ayo Wallace explores the life and legacy of his radical representation of Tottenham's black communities.
Across Britain, hundreds of thousands of people have now taken part in mass rallies for Corbyn's Labour. Eli Regan soaks up the atmosphere in Warrington
The under-30s could be decisive in the general election. Frances Grahl meets young people hit by Tory austerity and looks at what's driving their support for Labour
“To them it’s just another number, someone else being sent back. But when you’ve got three children being left without their dad … it’s quite major,” writes Rebecca Omonira-Okeykanmi.
Hundreds of people surrounded the fences this weekend. Hera Lorandos spoke to women who have suffered inside.
Grassroots posters giving an alternative take on the general election
Laying out the case for Labour's leadership of a Progressive Alliance, Jeremy Gilbert argues that far from posing a threat to the Left, the Progressive Alliance offers a golden opportunity to end Tory rule and build a 21st century government committed to social justice
The Greens have stood down in Brighton Kemptown to clear the way for Labour, and the Lib Dems won’t stand in Brighton’s other seat, Green-held Pavilion. Davy Jones, who would have been the Green candidate in Kemptown, says this shows the way forward
Contagion: How the Crisis Spread
Following on from his essay, How Empire Struck Back, Walden Bello speaks to TNI's Nick Buxton about how the financial crisis spread from the USA to Europe
How Empire Struck Back
Walden Bello dissects the failure of Barack Obama's 'technocratic Keynesianism' and explains why this led to Donald Trump winning the US presidency
Empire en Vogue
Nadine El-Enany examines the imperial pretensions of Britain's post-Brexit foreign affairs and trade strategy
Grenfell Tower residents evicted from hotel with just hours’ notice
An urgent call for support from the Radical Housing Network
Jeremy Corbyn is no longer the leader of the opposition – he has become the People’s Prime Minister
While Theresa May hides away, Corbyn stands with the people in our hours of need, writes Tom Walker
In the aftermath of this disaster, we must fight to restore respect and democracy for council tenants
Glyn Robbins says it's time to put residents, not private firms, back at the centre of decision-making over their housing
After Grenfell: ending the murderous war on our protections
Under cover of 'cutting red tape', the government has been slashing safety standards. It's time for it to stop, writes Christine Berry
Why the Grenfell Tower fire means everything must change
The fire was a man-made atrocity, says Faiza Shaheen – we must redesign our economic system so it can never happen again
Forcing MPs to take an oath of allegiance to the monarchy undermines democracy
As long as being an MP means pledging loyalty to an unelected head of state, our parliamentary system will remain undemocratic, writes Kate Flood
7 reasons why Labour can win the next election
From the rise of Grime for Corbyn to the reduced power of the tabloids, Will Murray looks at the reasons to be optimistic for Labour's chances next time
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 25 June
On June 25th, the fourth of Red Pepper Race Section's Open Editorial Meetings will celebrate the launch of our new black writers' issue - Empire Will Eat Itself.
After two years of attacks on Corbyn supporters, where are the apologies?
In the aftermath of this spectacular election result, some issues in the Labour Party need addressing, argues Seema Chandwani
If Corbyn’s Labour wins, it will be Attlee v Churchill all over again
Jack Witek argues that a Labour victory is no longer unthinkable – and it would mean the biggest shake-up since 1945
On the life of Robin Murray, visionary economist
Hilary Wainwright pays tribute to the life and legacy of Robin Murray, one of the key figures of the New Left whose vision of a modern socialism lies at the heart of the Labour manifesto.
Letter from the US: Dear rest of the world, I’m just as confused as you are
Kate Harveston apologises for the rise of Trump, but promises to make it up to us somehow
The myth of ‘stability’ with Theresa May
Settit Beyene looks at the truth behind the prime minister's favourite soundbite
Civic strike paralyses Colombia’s principle pacific port
An alliance of community organisations are fighting ’to live with dignity’ in the face of military repression. Patrick Kane and Seb Ordoñez report.
Greece’s heavy load
While the UK left is divided over how to respond to Brexit, the people of Greece continue to groan under the burden of EU-backed austerity. Jane Shallice reports
On the narcissism of small differences
In an interview with the TNI's Nick Buxton, social scientist and activist Susan George reflects on the French Presidential Elections.
Why Corbyn’s ‘unpopularity’ is exaggerated: Polls show he’s more popular than most other parties’ leaders – and on the up
Headlines about Jeremy Corbyn’s poor approval ratings in polls don’t tell the whole story, writes Alex Nunns
Job vacancy: Red Pepper is looking for a political organiser
Closing date for applications: postponed, see below
The media wants to demoralise Corbyn’s supporters – don’t let them succeed
Michael Calderbank looks at the results of yesterday's local elections
In light of Dunkirk: What have we learned from the (lack of) response in Calais?
Amy Corcoran and Sam Walton ask who helps refugees when it matters – and who stands on the sidelines
Osborne’s first day at work – activists to pulp Evening Standards for renewable energy
This isn’t just a stunt. A new worker’s cooperative is set to employ people on a real living wage in a recycling scheme that is heavily trolling George Osborne. Jenny Nelson writes
Red Pepper’s race section: open editorial meeting 24 May
On May 24th, we’ll be holding the third of Red Pepper’s Race Section Open Editorial Meetings.
Our activism will be intersectional, or it will be bullshit…
Reflecting on a year in the environmental and anti-racist movements, Plane Stupid activist, Ali Tamlit, calls for a renewed focus on the dangers of power and privilege and the means to overcome them.
West Yorkshire calls for devolution of politics
When communities feel that power is exercised by a remote elite, anger and alienation will grow. But genuine regional democracy offers a positive alternative, argue the Same Skies Collective
How to resist the exploitation of digital gig workers
For the first time in history, we have a mass migration of labour without an actual migration of workers. Mark Graham and Alex Wood explore the consequences
The Digital Liberties cross-party campaign
Access to the internet should be considered as vital as access to power and water writes Sophia Drakopoulou
#AndABlackWomanAtThat – part III: a discussion of power and privilege
In the final article of a three-part series, Sheri Carr gives a few pointers on how to be a good ally