January 06, 2003Close scrutiny by MigrationwatchUK of government immigration figures has revealed that over the past 10 years some 109,500 dependants of asylum seekers have been omitted from official figures for overall immigration - even though the numbers were known. Last year alone there were more than 20,000 dependants.
The 'missing' dependants came to light when MigrationwatchUK examined
the way in which the Home Office adjusts the migration data from
the Office for National Statistics. (RDS Occasional Paper No 75
That paper gave the actual adjustments made for asylum seekers
the years 1995 and 1996. When MigrationwatchUK compared these
numbers with the asylum statistics they found that they were based only
on applications (thus omitting dependants who arrive before the initial decision is taken). These numbers are known to the Home Office and have been published separately for some years in the Home Office Statistical Bulletin - but they were not included in the main annual publication of immigration statistics.
When challenged, the Home Office provided an explanatory note which
stated that "no allowance is currently made for dependants of asylum seekers. Until recently, reliable information on the number of dependants
has not been available. The quality and reliability of this information is improving and it is possible that an allowance for dependants will be included in the near future."
However, this explanation does not square with the Home Office's statement two years ago that the proportions of dependants had been consistent for the previous nine years (HOSB 17/00 paragraph 7). If so, there has been no valid reason to omit them. For some years international organisations such as the UNHCR have published UK asylum figures with an additional allowance for dependants, to bring them up to a comparable level with those published by most other countries.
'This is an astonishing admission,' said MigrationwatchUK Chairman, Sir Andrew Green. 'It demonstrates the unreliability of Home Office statistics when a number equivalent to the size of the British Army simply "disappears" from some of the principal statistics.
'It looks very much as though dependants have been omitted to keep the numbers down.
'The Home Secretary commented recently that he did not believe that "there was any point in hiding information because it merely deludes us when we need to find solutions to a very, very big problem."
'It would be a good idea if the Home Office were to take their
Mr Blunkett. A culture of concealment can only erode public confidence'.