Mr Green said that “Some of these cases date back more than a decade and the UK Border Agency was always clear that, because of the length of time many of these individuals have been in the country, there would be no alternative to granting them leave to remain.” This led to accusations that the Government had allowed an ‘amnesty’ on asylum seeking migrants.
Many of the applicants had been granted to leave to remain in the UK under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees a ‘right to family life’. It was this factor that was decisive in winning the right to remain in the United Kingdom rather than any evidence they were genuinely fleeing persecution. In many of the cases initial Home Office delays in processing claims were the major factor that allowed asylum seekers who entered Britain to remain and build a family.
Damian Green, the UK Immigration Minister, said that “The key point as to whether there was an amnesty or not – and there isn\’t – is if, under this government, there had been a significant increase in the percentage being granted because we wanted to get rid of the backlog, and that factually hasn\’t happened. Six to eight months ago the grant rate was running slightly higher than it was in the past few months. So absolutely there isn\’t an amnesty and, as Keith Vaz has made clear, the system is getting better now. The applications we had are now running at a 20-year low – we are spending £100m less of taxpayers\’ money on asylum support than we were two years ago. So finally, after many, many years of chaos and the shambles we inherited, the asylum system is beginning to get back to some kind of health and stability.\”
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