Select Committee on Home Affairs Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380 - 391)



  380. Last point. I understand as Director of the Refugee Council you speak for the interests of refugees. One of the most important contributions to their welfare would be a faster decision making process which would give them justice more quickly and also stop the issue of asylum getting mixed up with the issue of illegal immigration. You do accept, do you, that once we have a faster decision system in process then many of the people who claim asylum will simply come as illegal immigrants and will not prepare themselves? This is what is happening in many other countries. It does not necessarily address that problem.
  (Mr Hardwick) As you said our mandate is for refugees, I think there would be an overall decrease. I do think what is absolutely essential to the credibility of the institution of asylum is good quality decisions which are quickly made and implemented.


  381. We have been over this ground already but at the European dimension your own evidence to us talks about the possibilities of common criteria on asylum being developed at the EU level. Bearing in mind what Ms Hanlan was good enough to say to us about these three circles, as it were, do you think it is possible for the European Union to develop that while at the same time adequately respecting the provisions of the Convention?
  (Mr Hardwick) I suppose I would be very cautious of that. I am cautious about the work of the—

  382. What I am getting at, you would not say "Look it is an impossible task, forget it" or would you?
  (Mr Hardwick) No, I would not.

  383. What about our lawyers?
  (Ms Rogers) ILPA has recently prepared a paper on the Dublin Convention because the Commission in Brussels is revisiting the Convention and really looking into the problems. There have been a huge amount of problems with the Dublin Convention.

  384. Could you give us two or three for instances with the problems?
  (Ms Rogers) The problems are for instance in relation to family reunification where that has not been respected. The problems are where countries particularly who are on the fringes of the Union, for instance Italy, do not have proper procedures or have not implemented the proper procedures for finger printing and so on, so it is very difficult for the countries in land to then send them back to Italy because they say "We have not heard of that person before". Also the problems have been in delays because, you may or may not be aware, the manner in which the Dublin Convention is operating is very slow at the moment for various reasons.

  385. Yes.
  (Ms Rogers) People can remain here in detention in a lot of instances for up to nine months while negotiation goes on with another Member State about whether or not they are going to go there. By that time their claim could have been substantively looked at in the UK and if there was a proper quality and fast determination process it could have been decided whether or not they were refugees rather than deciding which country to put them into to decide whether they should be refugees.

  386. You did mention Italy, Ms Rogers, and I am happy to tell you, from a visit there earlier this year, they are very conscious of this problem and they are going to do something about it, not before time I might add.
  (Ms Rogers) Really our view on the Dublin Convention is that it needs to be revisited because it does not work.

  387. No?
  (Ms Rogers) It is fundamentally at odds with the whole conception of the European Union, because there are no borders between the European Union then it puts up these false borders, if you like, particularly between Schengen States but beyond that. We would like to see a system in which it is the country where the applicant first claims asylum that substantively looks at the asylum claim rather than where they actually come to.

  388. Forgive me, I understand exactly what you are saying but it is a point that Jack Straw was making in Lisbon that people have a choice where they make that claim, it does not have to be the first safe country. They get to that first safe country, call it Italy for the sake of argument, and say "no, thank you very much, we do not want to claim asylum here" and the French just ignore them, they are personnes sans papiers as far as the French authorities are concerned, they do not exist, and we know what they are trying to do, they are trying to get in the back of a lorry to get here to claim asylum. That does not get over that problem, does it?
  (Ms Rogers) No, but there are very good reasons that Nick Hardwick has picked up on and other people have picked up on today why a person may choose to come to the UK. It is not just a matter of safety, it may be an issue of family reunification, it may be economic reality, it may be "can I survive?"

  389. You get on to the point exactly. I understood what was being said earlier about the impossibility of totally separating out the asylum seekers from what we call the economic migrants but I am sure a common EU policy on asylum is best going to flourish where there are clear immigration policies in each of the Member States of the Union and perhaps some of those with features in common. In other words, if you want to emigrate to better yourself you know exactly what you have got to do and what your chances are of succeeding so to that extent you do not have to get forced into a position of claiming asylum to try to achieve this.
  (Ms Rogers) There is nothing that is better than clear and coherent policy. One of the difficulties for asylum seekers must be that it is all jargon and very difficult to follow. There cannot be anything better than fast and fair and good decision making and clear and coherent policy.

  390. Would you agree that the Tampere conclusions on the one hand want "common standards for a fair and efficient asylum procedure" and they also want "more efficient management of migration flows at all their stages", which is what we have just been talking about? Are those two things compatible?
  (Mr Hardwick) Yes, I do think they are compatible. It is possible to have fair and efficient procedures and to manage migration flows. One element of that is what we need to do is to start to have a discussion about what our immigration policy should be. It is such a taboo subject that it is very difficult to talk about but, as has already been said, we need immigrants. There are lots of economic immigrants coming here quite legitimately at the moment. If we have a sensible policy on immigration and, in parallel with that, good quality decision making, that would be part of the way in which those two things are balanced.

  391. Do your learned friends agree with you on this?
  (Ms Rogers) Yes. A coherent immigration policy is necessary. The Tampere Conclusions are broadly welcomed and particularly welcomed in the light of the opportunity or the discussion and consultation that must come about as a result. You will be aware that there is now a large amount of proposals and discussions going on at Community level, at Union level, on immigration as well as asylum and it is very important that these issues are properly canvassed both to the public and at national level and at EU level and not just decided in a room in Brussels and then presented to the public and to Member States as a fait accompli, that is not good. ILPA has made a specific response to the Tampere Conclusions because we do feel very strongly that it is important to consult. Part of the Tampere Conclusions are very important in respect of not only immigration and asylum policies but also in respect of racial discrimination and racial harmony and that also has to be borne in mind in any immigration and asylum policy.

  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Do let me thank you, please, for your time and your patience and for giving us your evidence so clearly. I think we have done very well this afternoon, you have given us a great deal to think about. Thank you very much.

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