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Mr. Straw: I would like to give the hon. Gentleman the assurance that he seeks. He will have noted that planes have landed at Leeds-Bradford and East Midlands airports so far, and that next Sunday, 9 May, planes are due to land at Prestwick.

We are aware of the substantial pressures faced by the hon. Gentleman's borough, by a number of other inner and outer London boroughs and, as it happens, by district councils in the region of Kent, around Dover. It is precisely because of the disproportionate burden that a number of those boroughs are having to bear that we introduced the Immigration and Asylum Bill, so that asylum seekers who enter the country in the normal course of events--they usually do so clandestinely--do not necessarily end up in Dover or the key boroughs, but can be dispersed, not to the four quarters of the earth but to areas where they can be cared for sensibly and properly and where there is much less pressure than London boroughs are currently experiencing.

Mr. Tony Benn (Chesterfield): I welcome the Government's decision to take refugees, but may I ask the Home Secretary two questions? First, given his suggestion that, if the problem is to be dealt with, it will be necessary to bypass his own legislation, will he look at the legislation again to see why that is the case? Secondly--this involves looking further ahead--are the Government and their partners in NATO committed to resettling the refugees in Kosovo? Has an estimate been made of how long that would take, what it would cost and who would pay? The desire to return home when ethnic cleansing is over will be the first thought in the minds of the refugees here.

Mr. Straw: Let me reassure my right hon. Friend that there is no bypassing of the Immigration and Asylum Bill. The Bill, of which an extensive proportion is concerned with immigration rather than asylum control, concerns people who have sought asylum status in this country under the 1951 convention, but have not been granted it. It has virtually nothing to do with either those who have been granted status under the convention, as refugees, or those who are given exceptional leave to remain in this country. They are automatically passported on to benefits, they have a right to work, and all the obligations imposed on local authorities by the Children Act apply to them.

My right hon. Friend asked whether we were committed to resettling refugees in Kosovo when the war is over. The answer is yes. It is not just because we are

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committed to that, but because the overwhelming majority of refugees are desperate to return, that the fundamental focus of humanitarian relief must be on the region of Kosovo.

Mr. Alan Clark (Kensington and Chelsea): Can the Home Secretary assure the House that his Department is taking effective screening measures to eliminate criminal elements among the refugee immigrants? His hon.Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development will tell him that I have already raised that in the House, on the Adjournment.

Has the right hon. Gentleman seen both the MI6 report and the Interpol papers regarding the Kosovo Liberation Army's drugs and prostitution racketeering, and the general level of intimidation involved in its infiltration of the refugee camps and, in some cases, the refugees themselves? If he and his Department do not get a proper grip, a concomitant load will be thrown on both local authority services and the police in this country.

Mr. Straw: The right hon. Gentleman will excuse me if I do not disclose which papers from the Security Service or the Secret Intelligence Service I have seen.

One reason why I said earlier that we must look carefully at each of the claims made by the 10,000 people who enter the country by other means to claim asylum--typically, by clandestine means--is that, while some are genuine and meet the criteria of the 1951 convention, others are abusive claimants who come from Albania rather than Kosovo. As the right hon. Gentleman asks, some of them are criminals. It is obviously important that, so far as possible, we ensure that they are not given any status in this country.

That is why we have to resist those naive clarion calls saying that, without any verification, we should give refugee status to anyone who turns up in this country who claims to be a Kosovo Albanian from Kosovo; we cannot do that. The people who would be most undermined by that are genuine Kosovan refugees. Of that there is no question.

Mr. Dale Campbell-Savours (Workington): First, will settlement be organised in clusters, to ensure that there is adequate mutual support for the families involved? Secondly, what counselling arrangements will be available, and from what agencies, for a people who have been through such immense suffering?

Mr. Straw: The arrangement is to ensure that people are settled in clusters. Indeed, that is the settled policy of the Government in respect of overall dispersal of asylum seekers, which we have set out in many consultative documents, and which we published alongside the Immigration and Asylum Bill. Every effort is being made to provide for mutual support, not least from the existing Kosovan population in this country. There is obviously an urgent need, for example, for interpreters.

I revert to the previous question. One of the reasons why we are sending a team of Home Office officials to the region, particularly Macedonia, to assist the UNHCR, is to help to process applicants to ensure that the people who come to this country by plane through the Refugee Council arrangements are those who are most in need.

Sir Peter Emery (East Devon): Does the right hon. Gentleman accept that one of the problems among the

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refugees is the number of broken families--and the number of children who have been separated perhaps from both parents and have no knowledge of whether their parents are alive? Does he accept that the International Social Service--with which I have some connection--which has its headquarters in Geneva and branches in Britain and in many European countries, and which specialises in uniting broken families and bringing destitute children back to relatives, should be encouraged to play a part wherever possible? Will he encourage the International Social Service branch in Britain to do all it can to help with that particular problem?

Mr. Straw: The right hon. Gentleman raises an important matter. I can reassure him that my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and my hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State for International Development, who is on the Treasury Bench, take that matter extremely seriously. We have already given £2.5 million to the International Red Cross precisely to assist in family reunion. Moreover, one of the criteria for admission to the UNHCR's lists of those to come to this country is family reunion.

Mr. Jeremy Corbyn (Islington, North): Does the Home Secretary accept that many of us are pleased with the support that the Government are giving to the recent arrivals from Kosovo and, in particular, the immediate reimbursement of local authorities of any extra costs that they have? It is important that they be rapidly paid. The move is extremely welcome.

Will my right hon. Friend reflect on the anomalous position whereby newly arrived refugees from Kosovo will be given exceptional leave to remain--and, therefore, correctly, access to all benefits-- while many existing asylum seekers in this country will continue to depend on food vouchers, handouts and little cash, a system that leads to high administrative costs and to very unpleasant experiences for many of those asylum seekers, who feel humiliation in their communities? Will he reflect on the fact that that anomaly will get worse as time goes on? Perhaps now is the time to reflect on the wisdom of that policy in the first place.

Mr. Straw: I am grateful to my hon. Friend for his general endorsement of our approach; I shall pocket and treasure it.

There is nothing anomalous in the position of the Kosovan refugees who arrive here by nomination of the UNHCR. There is no doubt about their status. They are known to be refugees, having a well-founded fear of persecution by the state from which they come. There is therefore no question but that we can grant them exceptional leave to remain or other status to allow them to remain here. The problem with those who arrive clandestinely is, as I have explained, where they come from and whether they have a well-founded fear persecution. In many cases they do. Two-thirds of all asylum recognitions in the past month have been in respect of Kosovo, but some do not have a well-founded fear at all; they have made it up. They do not come from the area. We owe it to the House and to genuine Kosovan refugees to discover who they are and whether they have such a right.

I wholly reject my hon. Friend's suggestion about the way in which the benefits in kind will work. Our argument with the previous Government in respect of

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benefits for asylum seekers was that they proposed to withdraw any benefit, whether in cash or in kind, from those who claimed asylum within country, and allow benefits only for those who claimed them at port. That would have left people destitute. Local authorities have had to fill that breach and they have done so well. But, as we heard from the hon. Member for Ruislip-Northwood (Mr. Wilkinson), that has placed substantial pressure on a disproportionate but small number of local authorities, principally in London. Those who have received benefits in kind have in no way gone destitute, however. They have been properly cared for and they will continue to be cared for under our new arrangements.

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