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5 Nov 2002 : Column 217—continued

Jeremy Corbyn: One problem is that when a person is deported to, say, an EU applicant country and wishes to pursue an appeal, there is no individual monitoring of that person's circumstances—the degree of harassment that they might face from local official or unofficial forces, which object to the fact that the person has brought Xshame" on their country by applying for asylum elsewhere. I believe that such people suffer considerable harassment as a result.

Simon Hughes: The hon. Gentleman is right. One question that I want to ask the Minister—I hope that she

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will have a chance to reply in her winding-up speech—is: what tracking process will there be of people who return to the country from which they came? I do not think that many would find the following judgment flawed. The chance of someone being able fairly, without influence or disadvantage, to pursue an appeal in this country after having been sent home to the Czech Republic—to take the example of the hon. Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart)—without the authorities in that country becoming aware of the people or person being put at risk is very small. The fact is that most appeals will not happen once the individuals involved have gone abroad. For the Government, the blunt truth is that those appeals are not intended to happen—it is intended that a whole series of appeals will be lost. That is why I put my question to the hon. Member for Slough. It seems to me that we could come to a perfectly reasonable view on a single stage of appeal, but only if an appeal takes place—evidence shows how flawed initial decisions often are—and takes place in this country.

I have asked the Minister whether the monitor will be used to track people. My second question relating to the monitor is: what will the monitor monitor? The decisions are not adjudicator's decisions, which result in a decision; nor are they tribunal decisions, which result in a report. What will the monitor have? We are told that they will have a certificate, but will they have any more than that? Will they have the notes of the hearing? Will they independently take notes of the hearing? How can someone monitor whether the job has been done if they have no access to material on which to judge the initial decision? Proper scrutiny of a judicial or quasi-judicial process is not possible unless there is material to scrutinise.

Home Office Minister Lord Filkin, when asked in the other place whether the white list would be the subject of advice from the advisory panel—whether the panel was to be asked about the countries on the list, the countries to add and those to remove—said that he did not think so. What is the point in having an advisory panel on countries if it is not to be asked for its advice? The purpose of having an independent documentation centre—for which the right hon. Member for West Dorset (Mr. Letwin) and others have argued—and an advisory panel is to have independent advice on, say, the state of play in the Czech Republic as it affects the Roma community.

Vera Baird: Is it not equally important to put into the legislation a positive obligation on the Secretary of State to have regard to that advice? Currently, it appears to me that the panel is merely one of a number of sources of advice to which he might have resort when refining his decisions, but there needs to be, first, a duty to advise and, secondly, a duty to have regard to the advice.

Simon Hughes: I agree absolutely. The Joint Committee on Human Rights, of which the hon. and learned Lady is a member, was highly critical of the Government's proposal. That Committee does an excellent job of examining new Bills, and it produced a second report on the amendments. Its members can speak for themselves, but the Committee was highly critical of the process envisaged and made it absolutely clear that it goes against the advice given by the United

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Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, which says that a state-by-state presumption is invalid and cannot be justified. The Minister in the other place did not give the undertaking to which the hon. and learned Lady refers. Colleagues who advise us—the Immigration Advisory Service is based in my constituency—have specifically asked whether the advisory panel will be asked to advise, but we have received no such assurance.

The hon. Member for Slough gave lots of good examples—most drawn from the Refugee Legal Centre, which is an organisation with an excellent reputation that used to be based in my constituency but has now crossed the river—of people from each of the applicant countries who have suffered persecution and fled, and whose cases have been upheld. All the cases arose in recent years. Let me add one further case, which is relevant to more than just the issue of the white list of applicant countries.

My noble Friend Lord Avebury, who is a diligent champion on these matters, took up the case of Jaqueline Kunan, an asylum seeker from Ivory Coast. I believe that he described her circumstances when the Lords debated the Bill last week. I gather that her case was reported on XWoman's Hour" yesterday morning. She was in Harmondsworth from June, then detained in Dungavel, and then returned to Harmondsworth on 21 October. She has had three solicitors, one of whom, it appears, did not do a particularly good job. She has with her a baby who was born a year and a half ago, and I understand that she is again pregnant.

Jaqueline Kunan's claim is one that would normally be regarded as fundamentally unfounded, on the basis that the judgment given by the authorities was that she had not made out her case for asylum from Ivory Coast—a country where a military coup and takeover have occurred.

8.45 pm

In a couple of hours this week, my colleague Lord Avebury was able to substantiate independently the facts that the woman alleged, and in a way that made her case clear. With the assistance of the staff in my constituency office or other people, I have often asked for the facts to be checked, and we have been able to disprove the circumstances asserted against us. I do not yet have the confidence that the system will come to the rescue often enough of people in particularly vulnerable positions. The Minister accepted my point that 40 per cent. of the cases that were held to be manifestly unfounded had been overturned on appeal. When the Home Office did a spot check, it concluded that 85 per cent. of the decisions were satisfactory. By definition, 15 per cent. are not satisfactory, so 15 per cent. of—in that case—250 people, who may have had a terrible time, would be sent home, possibly to face persecution. We have a duty to deal with them.

I hope that hon. Members will be sympathetic to amendment (a) to Lords amendment No. 154, if there is an opportunity for us to move it before the guillotine falls, or if not, that they will join us in voting against Lords amendment No. 157. That is a dangerous road to go down. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees has advised against it. It is a fair interpretation

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of the view of our Joint Committee on Human Rights to say that the Committee was very worried about it. We should not sign off the principle of people being sent abroad to appeal, or presume that certain countries will be satisfactory. Disproving that will often be far too difficult to achieve.

Vera Baird: I have little to add. I rely heavily on what was said by my hon. Friend the Member for Slough (Fiona Mactaggart), who made most of the points that I had in mind. May I take the matter outside the white list arena for a short time? Suspended appeals were discussed in an earlier debate, but let us not forget that there will henceforward be a certificate from the Secretary of State that somebody's application, either on an asylum basis or on a human rights basis, is clearly unfounded. Such people will have no right to remain while making any kind of appeal, even if they do not come from an applicant country to the EU. There are all the hazards that my hon. Friend the Member for Slough set out in relation to people being returned to applicant countries in order for them to make their applications from there.

Ten or, as Opposition Members have said, 15 per cent. of people have cause for complaint and have succeeded on appeal, even from those countries. That is bad enough, but we will be sending people back to other countries on the basis that their claims are clearly unfounded. In addition, there will be no independent advisory service with any of the duties that would attach to such a service to tell the Home Secretary when a country is safe or not, and there will be no duty on him to have regard to any advisory service before making such decisions. The advisory service is an extra protection, but it comes into play only when the Home Secretary is considering whether to extend the white list.

In a sense, the white list people are somewhat better off. First, they have a 90 or 85 per cent. chance, because they are in a country that we regard as meriting application to the EU. Secondly, there will have been a screening process for that country through the independent advisory service, from which, I reiterate, it seems important to me that there should be a duty on the Home Secretary to accept advice, whereas people going outside the white list countries on the basis that their claims are clearly unfounded will have neither of those protections at all. They obviously will have no appeal in this country. They will have the prospect of judicial review, and I was pleased that my hon. Friend the Minister was able to reassure me that nobody who had a certificate judicially reviewed would be removed before the judicial review, whether allowed or not, had gone to a full hearing. I framed that question in connection with white list countries. Can my hon. Friend give me the same reassurance that people who are not from white list countries who want to appeal to the divisional court against their certificates will not be removed before the applications have been fully heard?

Beyond that reassurance, I seek a stronger reassurance, because a perusal of other aspects of the legislation seems to show that those who have been certified as clearly unfounded in their claim, even if they judicially review, whether or not they are going to a white country, will not be entitled to any asylum support while they wait for their case to be heard. Judicial review becomes a thin remedy indeed with no means of

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sustenance and support while trying to implement it. Can my hon. Friend give me some assurance about what seems to be a lacuna in even the scant protection that the divisional court may be able to offer?

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