More than 16,000 deported in the last quarter of 2008

Woolas: "There is no place in Britain for those that continue to abuse our trust”

24th February 2009: Some 16,525 people were removed or departed voluntarily from the UK between October and December 2008, this includes 2,570 failed asylum seekers and their dependants and 13,950 non asylum cases. This is a two per cent fall from the same period the previous year.

A yearly comparison shows that overall removals and voluntary departures are five per cent up – increasing from 63,365 in 2007 to 66,275 in 2008. There was a fall of 15 per cent to 11,640 for those leaving who had claimed asylum (including dependants) but an increase of ten per cent to 54,635 for non-asylum cases in 2008.

Asylum applications in the UK fell by two per cent in the last quarter of 2008, from 6,870 between October and December 2007 to 6,735 in the same period for 2008, the Control of Immigration Statistics show.

The number of initial decisions to refuse or grant asylum was three per cent up, with 4,720 decisions being made in the last quarter of 2008 compared to 4,570 in the same period in 2007.

Mr. Woolas said: "We are coming down hard on those who seek to abuse the system. Our tough new force at the border last year stopped over 28,000 individual attempts to cross the Channel illegally, while our asylum caseworkers are on track to conclude 90 per cent of new asylum cases within six months by 2011.

"Our ability to return those who have no right to be here depends on detaining them and successfully repatriating them. That is why we will continue to work closely with the police, increase our detention capacity by 420 beds this year, and secure further agreements with key countries to take their nationals back."

The latest Control of Immigration Statistics also confirm that the UK Border Agency met its target to remove more than 5,000 foreign national prisoners in 2008.

At the same time, 5,395 criminals were removed. Mr. Woolas said: "By exceeding the tough target of removing 5,000 foreign lawbreakers from the UK last year we have made it clear that Britain will not tolerate those that come here and break our rules. There is no place in Britain for those that continue to abuse our trust. We now consider for deportation all non-EEA foreign nationals who go to prison for serious drug and gun offences no matter what the length of sentence."

Sharp fall in number of Eastern European immigrants

Crackdown on illegal cabs in central London