Syrians applying to visit the UK legally are being turned down amid fears they may try to claim asylum once they arrive, it has been suggested.
Figures obtained by The Independent, which organised a successful petition lobbying Prime Minister David Cameron to accept a higher number of Syrian refugees into the UK, show a major fall in the number of Syrian visa applications that are being approved.
Prior to the start of the current conflict in Syria, figures show that in 2010 5,522 visa approvals were given out of 8,028 applications from Syrian nationals. However, the statistics from last year show that the approval rate has plunged by more than 40 per cent, with just 3,283 visa requests approved out of 7,737 applications from Syrian citizens.
Immigration lawyers told the paper the drop was most likely due to fears that Syrians would try to claim asylum once they arrived in the UK and would not return to their home countries once their visas expired. Shadow Immigration Minister David Hanson said the figures were “very worrying”.
He added: “They appear to show the Home Office has been denying Syrian passport-holders a legal route to migration to Britain or indeed to visit at all.
“They seem to back up anecdotal evidence … that relatives of Syrians in the UK have been denied visas to enter the country since the conflict began.”
It comes as more than a million people signed petitions in the UK calling on the Government to take more refugees fleeing the civil war in Syria and allow them to settle in the UK.
In addition to the online petition organised by The Independent, petitions have also been circulated by charities such as Amnesty International, Refugee Action and Save the Children.