Number of applications for refuge in Britain dropped 21 percent in second quarter from previous year

Applications for asylum in Britain are dropping sharply, the government said Tuesday but acknowledged more efforts was needed to remove failed asylum seekers from the country.

Some 6,220 people sought asylum between April and June this year, down 11 percent from the previous three months and 21 percent fewer than the same period last year, the Home Office said.

The deportation of failed asylum seekers rose by 3 percent during the three month period compared to January to March this year, with 3,095 would be refugees returned to their home countries. But, the number of rejected asylum seekers was two percent lower than the same period in 2004.

Immigration minister Tony McNulty acknowledged the government needed to "make more progress in this area."

The main opposition Conservative Party said Britain's asylum system was in a shambles.

"This makes a mockery of the government's target to deport more failed asylum seekers than arrive," said spokesman Humfrey Malins. "Rather than rising, the number of deportations is in fact falling. The continued failure to address this problem beggars belief."

Immigration and asylum is politically sensitive in Britain. Asylum applications rose to record levels in 2002, and Prime Minister Tony Blair has fought hard to get control of the issue.

The government has introduced tighter border controls, speeded up the pace of processing and returning failed asylum seekers, cracked down on sham marriages and bogus universities offering fake courses, the AP reports.

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