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17 Mar 2005 : Column 379W—continued


Mr. Weir: To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what assessment his Department has made of the effect of the Lord's Resistance Army operating in Sudan and Uganda on (a) the human rights of the Ugandan population and (b) the stability of Uganda's government; and if he will make a statement. [222023]

Hilary Benn: The Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) has seriously undermined the human rights of the people of northern Uganda. Its abuses include murder, mutilation, abduction, sexual violence and torture. Many of the victims are women, children and the elderly.

LRA activity has had minimal effect on the stability of Uganda's central Government but it has disrupted local government in the North and seriously hindered poverty reduction efforts and the delivery of basic services to the population.
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2 Marsham Street

David Davis: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what the expected opening date of the new Home Office buildings in 2 Marsham street is. [205343]

Mr. Charles Clarke: A date for the official opening of 2 Marsham street has not yet been set. The Home Office took possession of the building on 26 January 2005. Staff began moving in on 7 February 2005. The occupation of the building will be phased over a period of three months.

Anti-terrorist Legislation

Llew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether it is his policy to allow
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information obtained under torture from British citizens held by another country in prosecutions carried out under anti-terrorist legislation. [205899]

Mr. Charles Clarke: The Government unreservedly condemns the use of torture and has made it an important part of its foreign policy to pursue its eradication worldwide.

The Government are not aware of any proceedings in a United Kingdom court in which any statement which is established to have been made as a result of torture has been invoked as evidence, except against a person accused of torture.

Asylum Seekers

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether the Department plans to undertake further research on the situation in the countries of origin of lesbian and gay people making asylum claims. [221804]

Mr. Browne: The country information material produced by the Home Office, for use by officials in the asylum determination process, is compiled from up to date information from a wide range of well recognised sources about the situation in the country of origin.

These sources include intergovernmental bodies (such as UN agencies), governmental sources (including the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Development as well as other Governments) and human rights organisations (such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and International Crisis Group). Country reports, which are produced biannually on the top 20 asylum intake countries, include a section on the treatment of homosexuals and lesbians, which usually draws upon material produced by organisations focusing on gay issues such as the International Lesbian and Gay Association.

In addition, case-specific research is undertaken as required where additional detailed information is needed to decide an individual asylum or human rights application.

There are no plans at present to undertake further specific research regarding the treatment of gays and lesbians.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what training is provided to officials dealing with asylum applications regarding the grounds for granting refugee status to applicants who have fled persecution because of their homosexuality. [221806]

Mr. Browne: Training is given to asylum caseworkers on making decisions based upon the criteria set out in the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Homosexuality is not specifically mentioned under the 1951 Convention, but in the training of asylum caseworkers it is advised that homosexuality in certain limited circumstances may constitute a significant factor in the recognition of a particular social group under the terms of the Convention
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Under the terms of the Convention a refugee is a person who can demonstrate a well-founded fear of persecution in his country of origin for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion.

Mrs. Roche: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department in what circumstances homosexual people from Jamaica applying for asylum in the UK would be returned to their country of origin. [221815]

Mr. Browne: Asylum and human rights claims by Jamaican homosexuals are, like those of all claimants, from all countries, considered on their individual merits in accordance with our obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). If the claimant meets the definition of a refugee in the 1951 Refugee Convention, they are granted asylum. If they do not qualify for asylum, but there are other circumstances that make them particularly vulnerable and engage our obligations under the ECHR, they are granted humanitarian protection or discretionary leave. If an application is refused, and any appeal is unsuccessful, then we expect the individual concerned to leave the UK voluntarily. If they do not, we consider that it is entirely reasonable for us to enforce the return of that individual.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what criteria are applied in granting humanitarian protection to individuals refused asylum; and by what means applications for such grant may be made. [222349]

Mr. Browne [holding answer 16 March 2005]: Humanitarian Protection (HP) is granted to individuals who would, if removed, face in the country of return a serious risk to life or person arising from:

Asylum claimants are automatically considered for HP if they fail to qualify for refugee status. They will be granted leave under the HP policy if they meet the criteria set out above and are not excluded on the basis that there are serious reasons for considering that they:

Individuals may also be excluded from HP where this is considered appropriate in light of their character, conduct or associations.

There is further information on the HP policy and detailed guidance on its application in the Asylum Policy Instruction on Humanitarian Protection which is published on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate website.

Mr. Chope: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department pursuant to the answer of 10 March 2005, Official Report, column 1959W, how (a) e-Borders and (b) identity cards will enable more precise monitoring of the whereabouts of failed Iranian asylum seekers in the future. [222360]

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Mr. Browne [holding answer 16 March 2005]: The five-year Immigration Strategy that we announced on 7 February contained details of our plans through e-Borders to introduce an electronic system of counting in and out visitors to the UK. Automated electronic checks will record people's movements to provide a greatly enhanced passenger movement audit with significantly more reliable inbound and outbound data information than any of the border agencies have been able to obtain in the past.

The Immigration Service is taking forward a number of projects under the umbrella of the e-Borders programme. Advance passenger information combined with new technology will allow passenger information to be collected on departure from the UK. The departure information will provide vital management and intelligence information, which may then be reconciled against information held on failed asylum seekers (FAS). A number of other Government agencies, such as the Department of Health, Department of Work and Pensions and the Inland Revenue have also expressed an interest in the potential benefits of a comprehensive passenger movement record.

The benefits of introducing a system for reconciling a passenger's departure from the UK against his/her arrival works only with a fully integrated comprehensive system covering all passengers and routes (including air, sea and rail). Such a system is planned as part of the full e-Borders solution. It is not intended to issue identity cards to failed asylum seekers. However, by reducing the opportunity for failed asylum seekers to work illegally, ID cards will make it less practical to remain in the UK as a failed asylum seeker.

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