Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 13 JUNE 2000
100. I just wanted to ask Mr Boys Smith about
the people who lose their asylum appeals. You do not know whether
they are in this country or not, they may or may not be. What
kind of thing does somebody have to do in order to remain in this
country undetected. Certainly as MPs we come across a lot of people
through the latter stages of the asylum process, even when they
lose they remain here for a long time and they often still have
children at school, go to hospitals, pay taxes, they are on the
electoral register and they draw benefits. Which of these things
would draw your attention to the fact that they are still here
and which would not?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I think in terms of things that would
draw attention I will ask my colleagues to come in in a moment.
The answer is that you can live in the United Kingdom pretty easily,
even if you are here illegally, particularly if you have an employer
101. And you do not get caught speeding, Mr
Boys Smith; it tends to show up.
(Mr Boys Smith ) - who does not ask too many questions.
Schools do not enquire as to the legal status of the parents,
so there is no constraint there. The United Kingdom, perhaps,
in comparison to other countries, is a relatively unpoliced society.
102. Somebody once suggested you can, more or
less, stay here provided you did not apply for a job in the Civil
(Mr Boys Smith ) Certainly not in IND.
103. My colleague spoke to a number of would-be
asylum seekers, some of whom mentioned as a positive factor about
Britain the fact that there was so many things you could do without
needing to prove your identity.
(Mr Boys Smith ) It must be beyond any doubt that
that is one of the factors that makes the United Kingdom an attractive
place for people who wish to come in, in the knowledge they want
to stay after they are supposed to stay.
104. I want to draw you outside your brief,
do you think from an operational point of view, it would be helpful
if other public services exercised the vigilance you do when you
are employing in the Immigration Service, about whether people
do have immigration status when they use public services?
(Mr Boys Smith ) If it were possible for access to
public service by GPs, by hospitals, to an eye test, all of those
things, if they were subject to some kind of check against a central
database, which does not exist, I have no doubt that arrangements
would be more effective. I am conscious that in Denmark, a country
not, obviously, with a popular image as an illiberal country,
they have the use of national identity numbers which are checked
every time people want access to schools or GPs, they are a significant
element of the internal policing of that society. Those arrangements
do not exist here. I mean it would be easy for me to say, "Yes,
of course, our job would be less demanding if those arrangements
and better ones did exist".
105. You talked about research before and the
way a researcher would look at this problem. Estimating the number
of people who remain here when they lose their appeals would be
to take some situation where people do need to explain their immigration
status if they are, maybe, involved in a road accident or something
and what proportion of those people are, in fact, over-stayers.
Has any research of that kind been done?
(Mr Boys Smith ) It has not yet. We now have in our
programme, it will start in the current financial year, some work
on the motivation of people coming here and on the size of the
population of them. That research has not been done. It is a gap
I have been anxious to plug.
106. Leaving aside the criminals and the gangs
we were talking about earlier, is there any doubt about the motives
of the average person who is trying to remain here illegally?
(Mr Boys Smith ) Not in broad terms but they want
to come here and get a job.
107. Yes. It has always been the case through
the whole history of migration into the country that the purpose
is to seek a better life. I am not suggesting that they should
be allowed to do so against the rules, so the question of vouchers,
I would not have thought that affects much as opposed to receiving
money and initial fees before they are able to find work. (Mr
Boys Smith ) A fundamental matter is employment. The state
of the economy over a long period is a factor in all this. Access
to the benefits system, certainly in the short-term, is probably
a factor, nobody can say how large a factor, and a number of other
things will be, in the short-term. We are talking about people
who do not bother to claim asylum, having got in here to live
in a community that they are familiar with and to get some cash
straightaway. That may well have been a factor in the past, I
think. As I was saying in response to an earlier question, I do
not think one can tease out the vouchers factor separately and
the dispersal factor as regards asylum support. Undoubtedly, the
Government's view is that the new support arrangements will remove
some of the short-term incentives to claim asylum here, rather
than in another countries, where it may be easier to access benefits
or maybe there are in place arrangements comparable to the ones
we just instituted in relation to asylum. A lot of what we are
doing is to catch-up with what other countries have done in their
effort for speedy decision making and speedy appeal. To be behind
the game is to make yourself more attractive than the competition.
108. All of these pressures on the United Kingdom
are not different from other western countries, we are not unique
in any way from France, Germany or Holland, they all have the
(Mr Boys Smith ) They all face comparable pressures.
The existence of an established community would be an important
factor. If you look at applications from different nationalities
they are different. On the whole there are not many Algerians
coming here but there are lots of Algerians in France. Perhaps
the English language is another factor, again, I am speculating.
Mr Winnick: The links in the past, the colonies.
109. Following on from Mr Winnick's questions,
it was clear when talking to the French officials at the Red Cross
Centre at Sangatte on the outside of Calais, where we saw 300
or 400 would-be asylum seekers their view was that they came here
for four reasons. First, there was greater freedom in the United
Kingdom, that was the top of their agenda. No ID are cards required
here. Thirdly, the good benefit system. Fourthly, the benefit
of obtaining a job in the absence of an ID card. Those were the
reasons they wanted to come here. It was confirmed by a Kurd whom
I spoke to, who made those points. It does seem to us that this
question of dealing with asylum seekersthe figures speak
for themselves, 8,000 will be removed this year.
(Mr Boys Smith ) Were last year. 12,000 this year.
110. Against 71,000 who sought refugee status
in this country last year, I wonder can you tell us a little bit
about how the removal agency is going to work? Is it going to
be properly staffed? Are you satisfied that it will be properly
staffed, from your point of view? Where will the staff come from?
Will they be poached from the other parts of the IND? Do you think
that it is going to make a significant difference?
(Mr Boys Smith ) You refer to an agency, this is part
of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate.
111. What are you going to call it?
(Mr Boys Smith ) The Immigration Service Enforcement
Directorate. It already exists, we are expanding it significantly.
It is essential, for the kind of reasons I alluded to a moment
ago, to ensure proper, through management of asylum. It remains
part of the same organisationI will come on to the other
things you have asked about in a momentit is essential
that we can manage cases through the system. We know when they
arrive in the port. We take the decision on time. We watch them
through the appeal system, if they decide to appeal, so that the
people deploying enforcement will know that on Monday week probably
that number of appeals will be decided and probably will produce
that number of enforceable cases. That they can have contact,
effectively, horizontally to the National Asylum Support Service,
who will know the addresses of the people who are receiving free
accommodation. I think a separate agency is not the right way.
It is important that it is an integrated business. We are recruiting
substantially to the Immigration Service and, as you mentioned
earlier, the number of Enforcement Directorate will go up by 400
to 500 in the coming year. In addition to that, powers are available
now, exercised on a pilot basis, from the new Act of Parliament,
to ensure that we can, in suitable circumstances, exercise arrest
on our own, away from the border, without having to rely on the
police. Inevitably, the police have other priorities than just
our work. Very helpful though they are their priorities cannot
be the same as ours. Arrangements will be unfolded around the
country and there will also be more extensive use of detention.
Ministers announced they want to expand detention, which can be
used in a variety of ways. Sometimes, obviously, in relation to
somebody following an arrival for the purpose of removal. The
key thing is to use the detention for a relatively short period,
immediately prior to somebody's removal from the country. We now
target the great majority of cases. We also have set up one, and
will set up more, what we call reporting centres. Rather than
relying, again, on the police service we will have our own reporting
centres to which people will be required to report during the
course of their period prior to the final resolution of their
case and from which therefore we can both keep track of them and,
if need be, exercise our powers on any particular occasion that
they come in to report. The preliminary centre in South London
is proving effective and on that basis we have expanded that around
the country. We are taking a large number of measures as well
as extra resources.
112. The two principle measures are not going
to cope with this huge number of people, are they? You are going
to have to think of other measures. Perhaps I can put to you,
without declaring my own position, what about the national identity
card? Would this make your life a lot easier, particularly in
relation to the points made by Mr Linton?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I hope you will permit me if I do
not go down the path of that which is a big question for ministers,
on the national identity card. We have a huge challenge on enforcement.
As I said earlier, the part of the business that has been under-resourced
and has had too little focus on it in the past is now changing.
Of course it not just detention and reporting centres resources.
It is the use of the new powers and what will, I think, lead to
the significant, over time, closing of the removals gap.
113. What about tagging?
(Mr Boys Smith ) That is not something I have seen
as being particularly effective for our purposes. If ministers
wanted to extend tagging beyond the criminal system then we would
have to see how we could apply that. You are asking me a rather
major policy question.
114. I was thinking of the practical side of
it, whether, practically, that is something that the IND could
(Mr Boys Smith ) Tagging can only operate where it
associates with different powers. It has to be associated with
somebody that is at certain premises at a certain time of the
day. We do not have those powers or anything akin to them to apply
tagging to our circumstances. That would require a major changes
in the legislative framework, of a kind that has not been previously
115. There are two other issues involved in
the removal, one is people who arrive here with no papers and
you cannot satisfy their identity. Perhaps somebody claiming to
be from Pakistan came to be from Afghan and then nobody answers
the telephone in Kabul. There is a reluctance, when you get to
the bottom of which country they come from, for that country to
take them back. One country in particular totally refuses anybody
who leaves illegally. Are they significant numbers?
(Mr Boys Smith ) There are significant numbers. Particular
countries for different reasons, Mr Wilson may want to follow
me, there is one country that will not, I will not say never takes
anybody back. It has set a high hurdle for us to cross in terms
proving they are from that country, as distinct from that ethnic
group, which is not a matter of doubt. That is quite a challenge
for us. We are engaged in a lot of discussions about that. I am
reasonably optimistic we will be able to make some progress. There
are other countries who, understandably, require evidence that
the person is a national of that country. They do not have any
particular obstacles but they take a long time about satisfying
themselves that that evidence exists, it can take six months or
a year sometimes. We can use up our detention space hanging on
to a significant number of people. In terms of the difficulty
of returning to a country, we will have to come back to you with
116. Just let us clarify this, it would be useful
to get it on the record, remind me, exceptional leave to remain
is normally given for a finite period initially. Where there are
these problems, where you have done the identification but the
country of origin is, at that time, refusing to take them back
and has a history of taking a long time, there may be circumstances
where exceptional leave to remain would be given that then could
be reviewed after. Whether it is given for a year or two years
you get a second look at that against the progress being made.
Is that the way it works?
(Mr Boys Smith ) Broadly speaking that is the case
but I cannot put a figure on it.
(Mr Roberts) Yes. I do not have a great deal of experience
of the policy of applying exceptional leave to remain. In my experience
it has not been applied to those people that we cannot remove
because of documentation problems.
117. It has not.
(Mr Roberts) In my experience it has not been applied.
The solution is to persuade and cajole those countries that are
being recalcitrant not to grant exceptional leave to remain.
118. What are your views on the 1951 Convention,
on the status of refugees. Do you think the Geneva Convention
is out of date now and needs revising?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I hope you will not think me flippant:
my views are those of the Home Secretary. Allow me to expand on
that. I am not wishing to be in any sense flippant, the Home Secretary
himself has recognised and said publicly, on a number of occasions,
he thinks that some aspects of the 51 Convention are outdated,
although he has been equally clear that we have international
obligations under that Convention. He intends that Government
should continue to meet those. There has never been any question
and there is not now of falling back from those obligations. It
was written in very different circumstances, where the ease of
travel and the pressures of economic migration were nothing like
the ones we now witness. The Home Secretary himself has been talking
about this contradiction at the heart of the 51 Convention in
terms whereby no receiving country has any obligation, whatsoever,
under the Convention, to facilitate the arrival of people. They
have an obligation to examine their case once they do arrive and
we will continue to examine those cases that do arrive here and
give them proper rights of appeal, and so on. The Home Secretary,
accordingly, floated a few ideas in this area that may prompt
a debate, possibly, in the longer term.
119. On the point that pressures for economic
migration were not as great as they are now, is it not the case
that migration was encouraged and legal in western Europe?
(Mr Boys Smith ) The pressures for migration from
various parts of the world are greater now, particularly in western
Europe. I think things have changed fundamentally, in the sense
that the asylum route is seen as a route of fulfilling that ambition
in a way that recently it was not. If you go back fifteen years,
why did people not claim asylum then? They did not.