HC Deb 26 October 1999 vol 336 c813W
Mr. Cohen

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what telephone access to the Immigration Service is currently available to(a) asylum seekers and (b) local Benefit Agency sections on asylum seeker matters; what plans he has to improve the current level of telephone access; and if he will make a statement. [93984]

Mrs. Roche

Asylum seekers, in common with other members of the public, can telephone the Immigration and Nationality Enquiry Bureau to seek information on general immigration matters or to chase progress on applications. Major improvements have recently been made in telephone call handling with around 4,000 calls (75 per cent. of calls) now being answered each day. Further measures are planned with the aim of increasing this to 5,000 calls a day.

Arrangements have been made with the Benefits Agency that local offices should use a dedicated fax line to make inquiries about an asylum seeker's immigration status. Urgent inquiries will be dealt within three days. Inquiries from the Fraud Unit or in connection with terminally ill claimants can still be made by telephone.