The number of failed asylum seekers removed from the country has fallen, the latest figures show.
The quarterly asylum, accession monitoring and citizenship statistics show that between July and September, 3,120 failed asylum seekers were deported.
This represents an 18 per cent drop on deportations compared to this time last year and is five per cent lower than the period April to June.
But the Home Office says the overall number of asylum applications has fallen to a 15-year low.
It attributes this drop to tougher border controls, rather than changing geo-political pressures.
In the first nine months of this year, 16,250 principal asylum applications were lodged, a seven per cent fall compared to 2006 and the lowest number since 1992.
In a bid to further diffuse criticism, the Home Office says the number of foreign national prisoners removed from the UK has hit a record high.
The Border and Immigration Agency has so far deported 3,500 foreign national prisoners this year, with a 15 per cent increase during the last quarter.
Lin Homer, chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA), has written to the Commons home affairs select committee to insist it is on course to deport a total of 4,000 foreign national prisoners this year.
Ms Homer wrote: "Our enforcement teams are removing more people than ever, and already this year we have removed around a 1,000 more foreign national prisoners than in the whole of 2006.
"While there has been a drop in the removal of failed asylum seekers including a decline in assisted voluntary returns, the overall picture shows significant increases in the enforced removals of those who broke British laws like illegal workers and foreign prisoners. This reinforces our commitment to tackle the most harmful people first.
"We will not rest on our laurels. We will toughen our borders further, which is why we are introducing biometric visas to tie travellers to one identity, an e-Borders programme which counts everyone in and out of the country, and ID cards for foreign nationals in Britain."
Borders and immigration minister Liam Byrne said today: "In March this year I said the first people we should send home are those who break British laws.
"Now we've removing record numbers of foreign criminals including illegal workers who risk undercutting UK wages."
Mr Byrne accepted, however, that the asylum system still needs to be made faster and tougher.
From the new year, he confirmed foreign nationals will face automatic deportation, as well as plans for a 25 per cent increase in detention space to be opened by next Christmas.