The number of people claiming asylum in the UK has risen steeply, according to official figures published today.
A total of 8,380 asylum applications were made in the first three months of 2008, an increase of 27 per cent.
The 27 per cent rise compares with an average increase of just 2 per cent across the whole of the European Union, according to the Home Office figures.
When family members are included, the figure rises 33 per cent, to 10,285, compared with a year ago.
But the number of Eastern European migrants entering the UK began to fall as the recession started, according to separate figures from the Office for National Statistics.
The number of nationals from the eight East European member countries issued with national insurance numbers was 265,000, a fall of 71,000 from the previous year.
Border and immigration minister Phil Woolas said the figures had shown immigration levels were "balancing", as more Eastern Europeans choose to return home.
"This suggests that increasing prosperity in post Soviet Eastern Europe in the long term can only be beneficial for the UK," the minister said.
"In addition there are now, according to independent research, around 1.5 million British people working in other countries in the European Union."
Woolas added: "We are making the UK a more hostile place for illegal immigrants through our tough civil penalties regime which has seen fines worth a potential £18m issued to businesses that have employed people with no right to work."