Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Fourth Report


Draft Council Directive on the short-term residence permit issued to victims of action to facilitate illegal immigration or trafficking in human beings who co-operate with the competent authorities.

Legal base:Article 63(3) EC; consultation; unanimity of participating Member States
Department:Home Office
Basis of consideration:Minister's letter of 27 May 2002
Previous Committee Report:HC 152-xxii (2001-02), paragraph 15 (20 March 2002)
To be discussed in Council:Date not set
Committee's assessment:Politically important
Committee's decision:Cleared, but further information requested


  15.1  This draft Directive proposes the introduction of a short-term residence permit for victims of illegal immigration activities or trafficking who are prepared to co-operate in investigations and criminal procedure against their exploiters. It is designed to counteract the difficulty of getting evidence against such exploiters, whose victims are reluctant to come forward both because of their insecure status as illegal immigrants and because of their fear of retaliation.

  15.2  As the legal base falls within Title IV of the EC Treaty (Visas, asylum, immigration and other policies related to the free movement of persons), the UK has three months from the formal publication of the proposal in which to decide whether to opt in to the measure (in accordance with the provisions in the Protocol on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland now annexed to the EC Treaty and the Treaty of European Union).

  15.3  When we last considered this proposal (in March), we expressed concern about the risk to victims who decided to co-operate, especially if the authorities eventually determined that their presence would not be useful and did not issue them with short-term residence permits. We wondered how many victims would be prepared to run this risk, even with the incentive of six months residence. We asked the then Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office (Angela Eagle) to provide us with any available information about the take-up of short-term residence permits, the safety of those offering to co-operate, and the number of successful prosecutions of exploiters in those Member States that have introduced these procedures.

  15.4  In addition, we asked to be informed of the Government's decision about whether or not it would participate in the measure, and stated that we would keep the document under scrutiny until we heard from the Minister on these matters.

The Minister's letter

  15.5  The then Minister wrote to us on 27 May, announcing the Government's decision not to participate in the draft Directive at this stage. She explains:

      "The proposed measure is, of course, an immigration matter, not a witness protection one. From that perspective, we were not persuaded that the benefits of the proposed arrangements outweighed the disruption to the enforcement of the immigration control which the automatic reflection period would entail. In addition, we continued to have doubts about how attractive...genuine victims would find the possibility of obtaining a short-term residence permit, and whether, by itself, it would be a sufficient incentive to persuade them to come forward and offer to co-operate when they would not otherwise have done so.

      "Home Office officials will keep closely in touch with the negotiations on the text, and, if the difficulties in the present version can be overcome, it is possible that the Government might wish to seek to participate once the final text has been settled."

  15.6  The then Minister tells us that she is still waiting for details of the systems which operate in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain. She undertakes to write to us again once these have been received and considered.


  15.7  We thank the then Minister for informing us about the Government's decision not to participate in the draft Directive at this stage.

  15.8  We would still like to receive the information about the systems which operate in Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy and Spain, and ask the new Minister to send them once they have been received and considered.

  15.9  In view of the UK's non-participation, we clear the document. However, we ask to be kept informed of the progress of negotiations, and, of course, to be told of any change of decision by the Government regarding participation.

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Prepared 11 July 2002