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20 Mar 2006 : Column 89W—continued

Torture (China/Tibet)

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will make a statement on the preliminary report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture on his visit to China and Tibet. [59614]

Ian Pearson: We strongly supported the visit to China by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture in November 2005. We welcomed the preliminary assessment of the Special Rapporteur's visit in a UN press release on 2 December 2005, and look forward to publication of his full report in the near future. The press release can be found on the UN website at: 1943FAA14D67C12570 CB0034966D?opendocument. The Government agree with the Special Rapporteur's assessment that torture in China, though on the decline, particularly in urban areas, remains widespread and that this is increasingly recognised by Chinese officials. We hope the Chinese Government will consider carefully the Rapporteur's recommendations when they issue with a view to making a wholehearted effort to implement them.

Mr. Andrew Smith: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs if he will table a resolution on torture and inhumane treatment of prisoners and detainees in Tibet and China at the forthcoming Session of the UN Commission for Human Rights. [59615]

Ian Pearson: The Government remain concerned about torture and the inhumane treatment of prisoners in China and Tibet. We regularly raise these concerns with the Chinese authorities, including through the UK-
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and EU- China Human Rights Dialogues. With uncertainty over the exact format of the Commission on Human Rights this year, it is not clear what scope there will be for consideration of this issue at the Commission. However, we continue to look for appropriate opportunities to raise our concerns with the Chinese authorities.


Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of the charges used to convict Mutabar Tojibayeva in Tashkent; what discussions he has had with (a) members and (b) representatives of the Government of Uzbekistan concerning this incident; and if he will make a statement. [59597]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: The UK and our EU partners have closely followed the detention and prosecution of Ms Mutabar Tojibayeva. Our ambassador in Tashkent has regularly raised her case and others, including those of Sanjar Umarov and Nodira Khidoyatova, at official and ministerial level, both bilaterally and while the UK held the presidency of the EU. On 17 January 2006, we supported a demarche by the local EU presidency seeking clarification on the welfare of Ms Tojibayeva.

We joined EU partners in observing her trial which finished on 6 March 2006. We welcomed the access given to these court proceedings, but the process and outcome do little to dispel the widely held belief that this and other recent cases were politically motivated.

On 9 March 2006, we joined our EU colleagues in a statement urging the Uzbek authorities to review the convictions and ensure a fair trial with access to national and international observers.

Angus Robertson: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment his Department has made of recent arrests and detentions of opposition and human rights activists in Uzbekistan; and if he will make a statement. [59650]

Mr. Douglas Alexander: Since May 2005 we have witnessed a programme of detention and harassment of those, including human rights defenders, journalists and others, who have questioned the authorities' version of events in Andizhan.

I am deeply concerned by the sentences passed recently on Sanjar Umarov, Mutabar Tojibayeva and Nodira Khidoyatova, as well as other moves against civil society, including the closure of several international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) during the past year. In addition to the restrictive measures introduced against Uzbekistan by the EU in October last year under our presidency, we also supported the resolution in the United Nations General Assembly in November 2005, highlighting the deterioration in the human rights situation in Uzbekistan. We have made numerous representations both bilaterally and with our EU partners on the situation as a whole and individual cases.

I strongly urge the Uzbek authorities to allow, in conformity with Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe principles and commitments,
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individual human rights defenders and NGOs to make their full contribution to the development of civil society and to respect human rights and fundamental freedoms in Uzbekistan.

Visas (Pakistan/India/Bangladesh)

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreignand Commonwealth Affairs what the average processing times were for (a) non-settlement and (b) settlement visa applications at each office in (i)Pakistan, (ii) India and (iii) Bangladesh in the last period for which figures are available. [58677]

Dr. Howells: The figures for processing times at each visa section in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh, as per UKvisas' public service agreements are as follows. These statistics are for the last quarter of 2005.

Visa sectionStraightforward non-settlement applications processed within 24 hoursNon-settlement applications requiring further inquiries or interview processed within 15 daysSettlement applications processed within 12 weeks (but please see notes for Islamabad, New Delhi and Dhaka)
New Delhi10093(25)100

(25)The target of 12 weeks does not apply to visa sections in Islamabad, New Delhi and Dhaka which receive a large number of settlement applications. At these posts, settlement applications are separated into four queues, for which figures are as follows.


Visa sectionRight of Abode claimants, dependent relatives over 65 and special compassionate case processed within three monthsSpouses and children under 18 processed within three monthsFiance"(e)s and other settlement categories processed within six monthsSettlement re-applicants processed within nine months
New Delhi100100100100
Dhaka100100100none received

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs how many visa applications were (a) made and (b) processed in (i)Pakistan, (ii) India and (iii) Bangladesh in each year since 2002. [58678]

Dr. Howells: The number of visa applications received, issued and refused by our missions in Pakistan, India and Bangladesh since 2002 are as follows. UKvisas' published statistics are for the financial year, not the calendar year.
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2002–03Applications received74,043236,43129,637
Entry clearance issued52,632196,69321,504
Entry clearance refused10,17339,64210,658
2003–04Applications received122,900300,45239,090
Entry clearance issued93,982240,30621,748
Entry clearance refused21,77558,63511,914
2004–05Applications received190,539344,76442,568
Entry clearance issued102,951280,53720,837
Entry clearance refused81,64372,90419,153
2005–06(26)Applications received156,171351,89035,508
Entry clearance issued87,787275,91519,542
Entry clearance refused61,25269,36014,408

(26)The figures for 2005–2006 are from April to February. These figures are not UKvisas' published figures, but are collected from the visa central reference system. UKvisas makes every effort to ensure that statistics produced from the central reference system are accurate. However, the complexity of our global business, including technical failures or occasional inconsistencies in data entry across any of over 150 offices, means we cannot 100 per cent. guarantee accuracy.

Jim Cousins: To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs for what periods since 2002each visa office in (a) Pakistan, (b) India and (c) Bangladesh was not able to accept visa applications for (i) students, (ii) first-time visitors under 25 years and (iii) working holiday makers. [58679]

Dr. Howells: Visa services were suspended at our high commission in Islamabad and deputy high commission in Karachi in May 2002 due to the regional crisis. A limited visa service was re-opened in June 2002, firstly for urgent cases. The service was then gradually re-opened to students, applicants for settlement visas and visitors who had previously travelled to the UK in the previous five years and complied with the terms of their visas. The last category to re-open in Pakistan was first time visitors under 30 in May 2004, but due to capacity constraints this category was closed in July 2004, with a lowered age restriction of 25 with the exception of family visits. This category was re-opened in August 2005 after the Memorandum of Understanding on Managed Immigration was signed with Pakistan. Working holiday makers have not been able to apply in Pakistan since May 2002. My noble Friend, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Lord Triesman of Tottenham, will write to my hon. Friend with fuller details of the restrictions in Pakistan following the 2002 crisis.

Most staff at our missions in New Delhi and Mumbai were evacuated in May 2002 for the same reason as in Pakistan. However, a skeleton staff remained and applications were accepted from those who had previously travelled to the UK and in emergency cases. From mid July 2002, student applications were accepted and a normal service resumed in August 2002. Chennai's visa service was closed to all applicants from 21 to 30 May 2005 as the deputy high commission moved offices. However, entry clearance applications were still accepted through the outsourced visa facilitation services and were sent to New Delhi for processing.

Since 2002, there have been no restrictions on the visa service in Bangladesh.

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