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UK offers asylum seekers money to return home

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The British government is to offer some asylum-seekers and illegal immigrants more cash to leave the country.

The offer, of up to 2000 GPB ($3,500) per person, would run until the end of June and would be available to those who claimed asylum in Britain before December 2005.

Immigration Minister Tony McNulty disclosed the package in a written statement to Members of Parliament, The Times reported last week.

"All those who leave the UK under this scheme will be offered an additional 2,000 pounds, which they can choose to take as either additional reintegration assistance or cash grants," he said.

Under Britain's current scheme those who voluntarily leave receive about 1,000 GBP ($1,700) from the government to help with reintegration needs, the newspaper said.

McNulty said the new scheme would be advertised at immigration and asylum-seeker centers. Mailings would also be sent to 54,000 people by the National Asylum Support Service.

The new inducement came as the Home Office said it had failed to meet the December goal of Prime Minister Tony Blair that more asylum seekers leave the country than enter.

It is predicted at as many as 3,000 people may take advantage of the pilot scheme. Travel costs to their home countries would be paid for by the British government.

The cost of forced removals is estimated at about 11,000 GBP ($19,500) per person.

A Home Office spokesman said the money would be paid in 12 monthly installments to those who left the country.

Under the current scheme, 2,783 people voluntarily left Britain in 2004-2005, the spokesman said.