Select Committee on Home Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence

Annex 30



  The Country Information and Policy Unit (CIPU) participates in two international fora for the exchange of information.

  The Centre for Information, Discussion and Exchange on Asylum, known by its French acronym CIREA, is a working party established in 1992, which operates within the framework of the General Secretariat of the Council of the European Union. It is a non-decision making body. Its purpose is to gather, exchange and disseminate information and compile documentation on all matters relating to asylum. These include Member States' legislation and rules relating to asylum, important policy documents, case law and legal principles, statistics, and the situation in countries of origin of asylum applicants

  During the Portuguese Presidency in the first half of 2000, CIREA has studied background country information on Nigeria, Angola, Pakistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, and will study Iraq in June. General topics discussed during the Portuguese Presidency include the involvement of NGOs in asylum procedures; asylum procedures at border posts; and unaccompanied minors. CIREA also holds one meeting during each Presidency with the United States and Canada, and also with the Central and Eastern European Countries (CEECs) Cyprus, Malta and Turkey.


  Ideas are also exchanged through the Inter-governmental Consultations on Asylum, Refugee and Migration Policies in Europe, North America and Australia (IGC). This is an informal, non-decision making forum for exchanging information and discussing policy in an effort to find innovative solutions and strategies to the rapidly changing asylum, refugee and migration situation. The participants include 16 States (Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Kingdom, United States of America) and also UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM).

  The current primary focuses of the IGC are asylum, return, trafficking, data and country of origin information. IND officials attend the working groups which have been set up to take forward work on these topics; ISED attend the working groups on Return and Trafficking; CIPU attend the Country of Origin Information Group. The Immigration Research and Statistics Service attend the Data Group.

  The participating states need to define key concepts, to pool relevant data, and to develop a common understanding of the topics under investigation. The States analyse the issues in the light of the pooled information, and then discuss possible policy options. A Full Round Meeting of senior officials is held annually the most recent being held near Copenhagen in April 2000. Six monthly Mini Full Round meetings are also held. These meetings discuss recent trends, policy developments and co-ordinate the future work of the IGC and its working groups. Workshops and ad hoc meetings on specific topics are also held from time to time, for example, the workshop on Kosovo in March 2000.


  The Council of Europe Ad Hoc Committee of Experts on the Legal Aspects of Territorial Asylum, Refugees and Stateless Persons, held its 49th meeting in March this year in Strasbourg.

  At the meeting the Committee adopted a draft Recommendation on temporary protection and its explanatory memorandum, for the examination and adoption by the Committee of Ministers. The Committee held an exchange of views on restrictions on asylum in Member States of the Council of Europe and the European Union on the basis of a Parliamentary Assembly Recommendation and the relating decision of the Committee of Ministers, deciding that discussion at another plenary session was needed to conclude an opinion for the Committee of Ministers on the complex and sensitive subject. The Committee held an exchange of views on the situation of refugee women and decided to keep it on the agenda for the next plenary session. A discussion on the detention of asylum seekers was held and a Working Party established to report back to the next plenary session. A preliminary exchange of views was held on subsidiary protection and it was decided to establish a Working Party to report back to the next plenary session in October 2000.


  The objective of Eurodac is to set up a mechanism to make the application of the Dublin Convention more effective. This will be achieved by means of a computerised central database for comparing the fingerprints of asylum applicants and certain other third country nationals. Agreement by Member States has been reached on most of the draft Regulation.

  Following the successful conclusion of discussions with the Government of Gibraltar and the Spanish government it should now be possible to resolve the outstanding issue of Eurodac's territorial scope. The UK maintains a scrutiny reservation on the article in question (Article 24 of the draft Regulation) for the present, pending fuller consultation with the Government of Gibraltar.

  The Council has proposed to reserve the main implementing powers to itself rather than delegate them to the Commission. The European Parliament will need to be reconsulted as this represents a substantial change to the Commission's original proposal.

  The Commission has recently published a version of the draft Regulation (COM(2000)100 final under cover of Council paper 7079/00) accepting most of the Council's amendments and incorporating these into the draft Regulation. It also responds there to the European Parliament's opinion on the Commission proposal, including its rejection of the Parliament's view that the minimum age for taking fingerprints should be raised from 14 to 18 years. The draft regulation has however been amended to make clear that fingerprints shall be taken in accordance with the safeguards in the ECHR and UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

  The UK has no objection to the provisions in the Eurodac text which would mean fingerprints for Eurodac purposes being taken from those aged 14 years and above. The Immigration and Appeals Act 1999 already provides a power to take fingerprints from those aged 16 years and above. National legislation would have to be amended, should the draft Eurodac proposals be adopted as they stand, to bring it into line with the Community provisions.

  The UK has yet to receive clearance on the draft Regulation from its Parliamentary scrutiny committees. It cannot therefore agree to the Eurodac proposals at this stage.

  Member states are considering the proposed technical specification for Eurodac. The Commission expect to have completed the tender procedure by the end of 2000.

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