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My last point is perhaps the most important. People who are in a privileged position should be especially careful about those who are not. Every hon. Member is in a privileged position because we know that the law will treat us fairly. Everybody who is born British should remember that it remains a considerable privilege because we live in a nation where we do not go about in fear, and when something goes wrong, we have a right and an opportunity to rectify matters. In that, we are not in the majority in the world. People like us, with privileges, should be especially careful about taking away those of the unprivileged.

At the beginning of fair trade fortnight, many of us are concerned that rich countries take from, rather than give to, the poor. Many of us believe that huge changes should be made to the way in which the world works. We are especially worried that the poorest countries are providing capital to the rich rather than the other way around. We may take time to do something about that, but to take today the step of removing from people the few rights that they have and the small access to freedom that we give them is deeply offensive.

I hope that all hon. Members who are in this country because, in the recent past, this country welcomed them or their ancestors, will think carefully before they vote for such a fundamental change. The privileged should certainly remember their position; those whose privilege depends on some past generous decision should be even more worried about the measure.

It is unacceptable that the House of Commons should rely on the House of Lords to put right something that should never have been introduced. We are the elected House; we should stand up for the freedom of individuals. We should be ashamed that such a provision was brought before us and ensure that it is thrown out.

The Under-Secretary should ask himself how he can come to the House to defend such a measure. Why is it him? Where is the Home Secretary when we are making a fundamental change to the law as it has existed in England for hundreds of years? He leaves a poor junior Minister to defend an impossible case, which would not have been presented were not the Home Secretary the man he is. Such a provision would not have been introduced without his personal decision. Yet whom does he leave here? A Parliamentary Under-Secretary. He is not willing to come to the House to explain why 300 years of law should be overturned. It is a disgrace and I hope that the House of Commons throws out what should never have been presented to it.

Jeremy Corbyn: It is a pleasure to follow the right hon. Member for Suffolk, Coastal (Mr. Gummer)

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because he is correct that we are privileged and enjoy rights, and that that does not give us the right to take them away from anybody else. If we pass clause 11, we will remove the right of appeal from some of the most vulnerable people in the world. Some of them have arrived in this country believing that they were coming to a place of safety. As my hon. and learned Friend the Member for Medway (Mr. Marshall-Andrews) said earlier, if we remove those rights from non-British nationals because that is easy, it is not difficult to extend the principle.

Last week, we passed the anti-terrorist measure that allows the Home Secretary to detain foreign nationals indefinitely because they are foreign nationals and he believes them to have some terrorist connection. I believe that everyone, irrespective of nationality, has exactly the same right to access to justice. We should stand up for that important principle. If we vote for clause 11 tonight, we shall allow a parallel system of justice to be established and remove a right of appeal, and it will be a very bad day. I hope that the House of Lords will reverse such a decision, but it is sad that we have to rely on an unelected Chamber to overturn a decision that we should not accept.

David Winnick: My hon. Friend knows that I largely agree with him but I want to put the matter in perspective and I do not apologise for speaking about the Conservative party's position. Is it not a fact that the Conservative scheme would not allow asylum seekers into the country, but put them on an island, from where they would have no right of appeal?

Jeremy Corbyn: I support people's rights to seek asylum according to the terms of the 1951 Geneva convention. The basic right that it sets out for people to seek asylum because they are in fear of persecution for religious, social or political reasons should not be tampered with. It is important to stick exactly to that principle.

Mr. Grieve: Whatever the merits or demerits of the proposal to process asylum seekers offshore, I simply point out that, in such processing, all the protections of the law, including existing powers of appeal, would be there for those seeking asylum.

Jeremy Corbyn: If I may, I should like to revert to clause 11, which we are debating.

All those who seek asylum have a right to have their case properly considered and tackled, and a right of appeal against any decision. Those rights include that to proper representation, and that is why I intervened on my hon. Friend the Member for Walsall, North (David Winnick). As a Member of Parliament who represents an inner-urban constituency, where many people seek asylum, have sought it and will doubtless seek it in future, from all sorts of tyrannical regimes all around the world, I find it desperately sad that they are so badly advised and represented at the beginning of the process that the case is almost lost before it has begun. It is the Home Office's responsibility to ensure the availability of adequate legal advice and good quality representation. However, legal aid companies that have done good work on representation are closing by the day; good

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quality lawyers are giving up on asylum work because they can no longer afford to do it, and some of the most desperate and vulnerable people are left unrepresented.

Ms Abbott: My hon. Friend referred to our unfortunate reliance on the House of Lords to throw out the clause. Is not one of the most unfortunate aspects that, if the House of Lords were reformed so that it was wholly appointed, it would be even less likely that the second Chamber would make good such provisions?

Jeremy Corbyn: As a democrat, I favour neither a hereditary nor an appointed but an elected Chamber. All Chambers should be elected and thus mandated. However, unfortunately, I shall not make the final decision.

Let us revert to clause 11. In a couple of weeks, the United Nations Commission on Human Rights will start its annual session, which will run for four or five weeks, in Geneva. Doubtless, it will rightly pass many condemnatory motions about human rights abuses throughout the world. How embarrassing it would be if the commission passed a motion that condemned Britain for its failure to provide a proper appeals system for asylum seekers and for its deporting them to places of danger. We should consider that.

Many hon. Members will have received an excellent document from Amnesty International that outlines the way in which Home Office decision making fails refugees. It tackles the concept of safe countries and the strange advice on which the Home Office appears to rely when deciding what is safe and what is not.

Three weeks ago, I was invited to chair a meeting in the House of Commons of the Congolese community in this country to discuss the situation facing their country, their safety and their concerns. Some 3 million people have died in the current war in that country—a death rate of first world war standards recorded in the 21st century. Fundamentally, it is a war about resources, with lots and lots of complications around it. I asked those at that meeting, which was sober and well informed—some of the people who attended had lived in this country for a long time and had sought asylum 20 or 30 years ago, and some were more recent arrivals—what message they would like me to convey to the Government. Their message was that they wanted peace in their country, and a Government in their country who were representative, accountable and democratic, but above all, they did not want any of their compatriots who had sought asylum in this country to be deported back to the Congo, to a place of a danger.

The Home Office decides the suitability or otherwise of various countries to receive failed asylum applicants on the basis of a sort of tick box process, saying, "Does it have an independent Government? Does it have an independent judiciary?" In many cases, the answer is yes, yes, yes, so it is safe to deport people. Every Member of the House who has dealt with deported asylum seekers who have been returned to various countries in west Africa and other places will know perfectly well that they are not safe when they return—that they can be pursued, arrested, tortured and beaten, and they can disappear. We have deported asylum seekers to those places of danger, and I have had a considerable number of such cases.

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As for some of the letters sent out by the Home Office, or the statements made to appeal committees against an asylum refusal in this country, I will quote one that was reported in the Amnesty International document concerning Colombia. It states:


I was in Colombia two weeks ago, and I met trade unionists who had seen fellow trade unionists murdered—the largest number in any country in the world in the past year—lawlessness and the ineffectiveness of the civil authorities when dealing with those cases. We have to be serious about this matter. In denying people the right to appeal, we are ipso facto sending those people back to grave danger and in some cases possible death.


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