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House of Commons
Session 2005 - 06
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Standing Committee Debates

Fourth Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

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Fourth Standing Committee
on Delegated Legislation

The Committee consisted of the following Members:


John Bercow

†Austin, Mr. Ian (Dudley, North) (Lab)
Binley, Mr. Brian (Northampton, South) (Con)
Brokenshire, James (Hornchurch) (Con)
†Burnham, Andy (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department)
†Gillan, Mrs. Cheryl (Chesham and Amersham) (Con)
†Grogan, Mr. John (Selby) (Lab)
†Horwood, Martin (Cheltenham) (LD)
†Howarth, Mr. George (Knowsley, North and Sefton, East) (Lab)
†McCabe, Steve (Birmingham, Hall Green) (Lab)
†Mahmood, Mr. Khalid (Birmingham, Perry Barr) (Lab)
†Norris, Dan (Wansdyke) (Lab)
Oaten, Mr. Mark (Winchester) (LD)
†Prisk, Mr. Mark (Hertford and Stortford) (Con)
†Ryan, Joan (Lord Commissioner of Her Majesty’s Treasury)
Taylor, Mr. Ian (Esher and Walton) (Con)
Thornberry, Emily (Islington, South and Finsbury) (Lab)
†Waltho, Lynda (Stourbridge) (Lab)
Geoffrey Farrar, Committee Clerk
† attended the Committee

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Thursday 24 November 2005

[John Bercow in the Chair]

Draft Asylum (Designated States) (No. 2) Order 2005

8.55 am

The Chairman: I shall begin with a couple of preliminaries. First, Members are welcome to remove their jackets if they wish to do so. Secondly, for the guidance of Members, I must tell the Committee that the scope of debate is narrowly confined to the question whether Mongolia, Ghana and Nigeria should be added to the list in the relevant Act. Debate upon the desirability or efficacy of having such a list would not fall within the terms of the order.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Andy Burnham): I beg to move,

    That the Committee has considered the Draft Asylum (Designated States) (No. 2) Order 2005.

It is a pleasure and something of a surprise, Mr. Bercow, to see you in such an exalted position. In my few years as a Member, I have been labouring under the impression that one has to spend at least 25 years in the House before one can sit in the Chair. I am further pleased because I know that, in you, we have something of an expert on the matter before us: you have written a pamphlet on immigration, and I commend it to those on the Labour Benches and to the Conservative Front-Bench spokesmen.

The draft order was laid the House on 24 October 2005. The Committee will be familiar with the subject that we are dealing with today. This is the fourth order that adds to the list of countries to which the non-suspensive appeal provisions in section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 apply. At present, there are 14 countries on the list, which were added between April 2003 and February 2005. The order will add Mongolia; and it will add Ghana and Nigeria in respect of male applicants only.

I shall briefly remind the Committee of the main elements of the non-suspensive appeals process. An unsuccessful asylum or human rights claim made by a person entitled to reside in a designated state will be certified as clearly unfounded unless the Secretary of State is satisfied that the claim is not clearly unfounded. The effect of a clearly unfounded certificate is that there will be no in-country right of appeal against the refusal of the claim; the right of appeal will be exercisable only from outside the United Kingdom.

In order to add a country to the list in section 94 of the 2002 Act, the Secretary of State must be satisfied, first, that there is in general no serious risk of persecution of persons entitled to reside in that country; and, secondly, that removal to that country of
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an individual entitled to reside there would not in general breach the United Kingdom’s obligations under the European convention on human rights. We are satisfied that Mongolia meets that test. We are satisfied that Ghana and Nigeria meet the test, but at the present time for males only.

Looking a little more closely at the situation in Ghana and Nigeria, although we are satisfied that the test is met in relation to males entitled to reside in those countries, we are not satisfied that the test is met in respect of women. In both countries, the evidence suggests that women are not able to access the level of protection from the state that is necessary in order for the legal test to be satisfied. We have therefore decided to designate Ghana and Nigeria for male applicants only.

Inclusion on the list reflects a general level of safety for those to which it applies, not a total absence of mistreatment. It is important to bring that to the Committee’s attention. We continue to give every asylum and human rights claim from a resident of a designated country full consideration on its merits. A claim would not be refused or certified as clearly unfounded unless we were satisfied, after individual consideration, case by case, that the claim fell to be refused and certified.

When considering adding those countries to the list, we took into account our published country-of-origin information material, and we consulted the independent Advisory Panel on Country Information on that material. At the panel’s meeting in September 2005, the information on those countries was considered and the panel found it to be an accurate and balanced representation of the source material and country conditions.

Mr. Mark Prisk (Hertford and Stortford) (Con): I hesitate to interrupt the Minister’s flow, but there may be a factual error that he would wish to bring to the Committee’s attention. I may be wrong, and I am happy to be corrected. Members of the Committee will note that the explanatory memorandum refers to the number of applications from each country. In each instance, there are fewer decisions than applications, except—unless I have misread the figures—in the case of Mongolia in 2004, when there appear to have been 130 decisions on 110 applications. I might have entirely misread the information, or there might merely be a typographical error, but could the Minister clarify the point either now or when he replies to the debate?

Andy Burnham: I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for bringing that to my attention. The figures would appear not to make sense, so I will have them checked by officials and clarify them with him. As he rightly said, it would make more sense for there to be fewer than 110 decisions, but we will clarify the point for him, and I am grateful to him for highlighting it. As he will know, new asylum and immigration statistics were released this week, so perhaps we can update him on the general figures when and if we need to correct the figure that he mentioned.

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The Committee might ask why we propose adding these three countries at this time. Although we are committed to providing a safe haven for genuine refugees and others who require our protection, we are determined to continue to tackle abuse of our asylum system. The powers under the 2002 Act have resulted in a significant cut in the number of asylum applications from the countries listed previously.

For example, the intake of new applications from the countries that were designated in the 2002 Act—the then 10 European Union accession countries—fell by 97 per cent. from October 2002 to April 2004, when the states concerned became members of the EU, and the non-suspensive appeals designation effectively ended. That compared with an overall fall in intake of 70 per cent. over the same period.

For the countries that were added to the list on 1 April 2003—Albania, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro—intake fell by 83 per cent. from March 2003 to September 2005. Overall intake fell by 51 per cent. in that period. There was a similar and very significant fall in intake from the countries that were added to the list on 23 July 2003: Bolivia, Brazil, Ecuador, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Ukraine. Intake from those countries fell by 66 per cent. from June 2003 to September 2005, with the overall intake during that period falling by 39 per cent.

Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham) (Con): In cases where people have been returned to countries on the so-called white list, have the Government monitored the outcomes and the success with which those people have settled back into the countries to which they were deported?

Andy Burnham: That is a fair question. The hon. Lady knows that the Home Office does not have the resources to monitor every individual claim once a person has been returned to the country of origin. However, we keep close tabs on the situation on the ground via the country-of-origin information system; that is the basis of our system. Although some people have been returned under the present process, some have made successful claims from those countries—they have successfully exercised their appeal rights in their country of origin. However, there is no individual monitoring of people once they have returned.

Mrs. Gillan: That leads directly to a question. The Minister is laying out the terms and conditions of the order, but has he made parallel arrangements to monitor the situations in Nigeria, Ghana and Mongolia? If so, what are they?

Andy Burnham: As I explained to the hon. Lady, we continue to monitor the situation in all countries via the country-of-origin information system. The fact of designation would not alter that; we would continue to monitor the situation on the ground and to consider applications by people from those countries on a case-by-case basis.

Monitoring on the ground is carried out by Foreign Office sources in the country and also by non-governmental organisations. A range of source
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materials is gathered to form the basis of the reports used by the immigration and nationality directorate. That information is considered and independently assessed, which is why I referred a moment ago to the independent Advisory Panel on Country Information. There is a further check on the system to ensure that the information on which we are basing our decisions is accurate and fair.

I was describing a situation whereby there had been a significant fall in applications that had been added to the non-suspensive appeal process.

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): Does the Minister agree that there might be a problem of cause and effect? Applications may be falling from those countries for the same reason that the Government saw fit to propose that they are on the designated list, namely that the human rights situation is improving.

Andy Burnham: That is correct. Designation has a deterrent effect on applications, but it also recognises a general improvement in conditions in those countries. One of the countries that we are considering today, Nigeria, has seen a demonstrable improvement in in-country conditions in the last decade. In living memory there was a military dictatorship and that has changed in recent times. The hon. Gentleman is right: that does reflect an improvement in those countries. Having said that, we are not going to say today that we are entirely satisfied that we can designate the country as a whole. That is why we are keeping the designation for male applicants only.

India was added to the list on 15 February this year and intake fell by 46 per cent. from March 2005 to September 2005, with the overall intake during that period falling by 1 per cent.

Mrs. Gillan: Does the Minister have any concrete evidence that the reduction of asylum applications from India is attributable to that country’s addition to the white list and is not just in line with overall trends?

Andy Burnham: I should point out to the hon. Lady that although it may be called the white list in some quarters, we do not regard it as such. It is a list of countries that are designated for the non-suspensive appeal process. There is some confusion between the two.

In answer to the hon. Lady’s question about the fall in applications, the figures show that the NSA process has been successful in making a significant contribution to tackling abuse of the asylum system. She is right: there has been a fall when it comes to India, but I went through the countries that have progressively been added and, in each case, the fall in applications from those countries outstrips the general fall in asylum applications in the same time. That would suggest a number of things, and I would not want to attribute it to any one factor. The hon. Member for Cheltenham (Martin Horwood) is absolutely right; there has been an improvement on the ground in those countries. Nevertheless, the deterrent effect is a sign of the success of the process we have
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introduced. It is bearing fruit, but we are proceeding in a cautious and incremental way; hence the further designations before us today.

We believe that the addition of the further three countries—Mongolia, and Ghana and Nigeria in respect of male applicants—will further prevent failed asylum seekers from attempting to frustrate their removal from the UK by unnecessarily prolonging the appeals process. Designating a country for the purposes of non-suspensive appeals provides a disincentive for people with no genuine protection needs who might misuse the asylum process. That leads to enhanced public confidence in the overall asylum system, a reduction of intake and a speeding up of the process, and a consequent releasing of resources, which can be used to improve performance in other areas. The order, which adds Mongolia and, with respect to men, Ghana and Nigeria to the list of designated countries, is, we believe, a sensible and measured step towards the increased use of non-suspensive appeals.

9.11 am

Mrs. Gillan: Mr. Bercow, I cannot tell you and the Committee what a pleasure it is—

Mr. Prisk: Oh go on. Tell us.

Mrs. Gillan: Having been pressed by my hon. Friend I shall, after all, tell you and the Committee what a pleasure it is to be speaking under your chairmanship this morning. The same applies to the Minister, whose appointment I greet with great surprise and pleasure. There is no doubt in my mind that as a contributor to the proceedings of the House he is second to none. [Hon. Members: “Hear, hear.”] It is nice to have complete cross-party agreement about that. I shall try to do justice to you, Mr. Bercow, and not get out of order too early in the sitting.

I apologise to the Committee for the fact that I, and not my hon. Friend the Member for Woking (Mr. Malins), am speaking for the Opposition. He is of course an expert on the areas in question, and the Minister is probably being let off a little lightly in facing me. My hon. Friend has been working particularly hard, having served on the Standing Committees on the Violent Crime Reduction Bill and on the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill. I think that he is taking a well earned rest today; he is unable to be here this morning.

I do not intend to divide the Committee on the order, but, because it is before us, and because of a couple of unusual factors, I have a few questions for the Minister. I do not want to make a meal of it, because there are enough givens; this is, I think, the fourth order since the legislation came into force, and the ground is all fairly familiar. I shall, as you suggested in your guidance, Mr. Bercow, restrict my remarks to a few probing questions about Mongolia, Ghana and Nigeria. In some ways, Mr. Bercow, I wish you were a member of the Committee, because, as the
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Minister said, you have great knowledge of these matters, and you could probably think of more questions than I will ask today.

One feature of the order which instantly attracted my attention was the fact that Ghana and Nigeria were designated for the purposes only of claims by men. I think that this is the first use of the powers taken by the Government under the 2002 Act to designate a state in respect of some but not all people. The powers in section 94(5C) of the Act allow the designation to be made by reference to gender, language, race, religion, nationality, membership of a social or other group, political opinion,

    “or any other attribute or circumstances that the Secretary of State thinks appropriate.”

The division by gender in the order raises several obvious questions, particularly in the case of a country as diverse as Nigeria, with so many states and different cultures. Has the Minister carefully considered whether the designation would apply to all states in Nigeria? Some states operate under sharia law, where the treatment of women leaves much to be desired, and I presume that one of the reasons for the designation is the concern that the Government would have about returning women to states in which they could face death or mutilation because of the legislative framework that obtains there. I certainly would be concerned in that situation.

I should also like some basic information—and not just for the last two years, the poor mathematics on which have been pointed out by my hon. Friend the Member for Hertford and Stortford (Mr. Prisk). How many people from Mongolia, Ghana and Nigeria have been recognised as refugees in the past five years? That information would give a better snapshot. I am conscious that many of the statistics on which the Minister relied, as well as those in the explanatory memorandum, are very recent. However, as we know, the problem has gone on over a long period. What is the five-year snapshot? How many of those people were recognised as refugees at the initial Home Office decision stage, and how many on appeal? The Minister must have those statistics. However, if they are not immediately available, I am happy for him to write to me and make them public. Although inspiration often comes to Ministers out of the ether during proceedings such as these, I do not necessarily expect all the facts and figures to be immediately to hand.

Returning to the gender position for Ghana and Nigeria, what is the gender breakdown of those recognised as refugees in the past three years? It would be particularly useful to have that information as numbers of applicants, not in percentage terms, because the House needs a better understanding of the whole subject. I am sure that the order will be approved, so the Minister will have to supply the information, either willingly or as the result of a large number of written questions. I hope that he will be able to satisfy my curiosity.

I wish to ask about the future. Designation by gender will lead to some unusual situations. For example, how will the Home Office ensure that Nigerian and Ghanaian women coming to the UK
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with men as wives or daughters are alerted to the presumption of certification that will operate in respect of the man’s claim and that they have the opportunity to take advice on whether a woman in the family group should be the primary claimant? How will the Home Office deal with a situation in which, a husband and wife having come to this country, the man is returned and the woman remains? I am sure that the Minister and his Department have thought this through, and that perfectly adequate arrangements have been made for briefing information to be provided and steps to be taken. However, unless we hear it from the Minister, it is hard to understand how the gender-based designation will work in practice.

Having taken the step of using powers to certify some but not all claims for a country, will the Home Office review all the countries on the designated list, and will it consider refining its certification of claims from those countries? Once the Minister has started to use the powers in section 94(5), it will be interesting to see whether the list is further refined, or whether refinements are applied to countries further down the line. It also prompts the question—particularly considering the states in Nigeria with sharia law—whether the Minister considered Nigeria in terms of the other categories laid out in the legislation: language; race; religion, in particular; nationality; and members of political and social groups. Nigeria is constantly improving—hence its inclusion, for men, on the list—but many of its areas are not trouble free. It is a constant worry that we might take decisions that are fairly divorced from the situation on the ground. I want to satisfy myself that the Home Office has been through the checklist and that the designation by gender has been arrived at in a correct fashion.

The Minister knows that several organisations do not agree with the listing, or designation, process. The Immigration Law Practitioners Association has raised serious queries about it, and, I believe, the Refugee Council and the Law Society also believe that this type of listing constitutes a fundamental breach of every pillar of the UN refugee convention as it can never be said that any country is safe for all people at all times. I should like to hear from the Minister whether he can answer those claims, because it is important to address the criticisms of such distinguished organisations. Will he give some comfort to members of the Committee, and people outside it, that although he disagrees with those organisations, he has some justification for adding these three countries to the list?

I have spoken for far too long—certainly for much longer than I had anticipated—but I hope that the Minister will allow me to intervene later. I close my remarks by raising the issue of monitoring.

When I intervened on the Minister, he said that he relies on Foreign Office sources and NGOs in-country to provide him with information on the ground, and that it is subject to independent monitoring. With my specific knowledge of Nigeria, and considering the geographical distance of Mongolia, and, I hope, the constantly improving situation in Ghana, I think that Ghana is probably the only one of those countries for
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which the Minister could get accurate and reliable information. Therefore, I would like further and better particulars about what arrangements are in place in Mongolia. I am not sure how large our embassy there is. Is it one of those countries in which we shall maintain our FCO presence or one of the many in which we operate a skeleton staff with the prospect of the embassy being closed at any second?

I should also like further and better particulars about Nigeria because of the complexity of the set-up there and the large number of states and parliaments. We need more assurances that it really is safe for the men whom the Minister anticipates sending back there. It is hard to believe that if an environment is considered to be totally unsuitable to return women to, there are no doubts about some of those areas regarding men. I hope that the Minister will address all of my concerns in his response.

9.25 am

Martin Horwood (Cheltenham) (LD): I, too, am delighted to serve under your chairmanship, Mr. Bercow, especially as you have demonstrated your liberal credentials on human rights issues on several occasions, not least by your willingness to let us take our jackets off today. It is appropriate that you are sitting under a portrait of Alfred inciting the Saxons to prevent the landing of the Danes; that shows how old this debate is.

I learned quite a lot doing my homework for this debate. Mongolia sounds like a delightful country. I look forward to visiting it, although not during the winter when the temperature drops to minus 50°, which is a little scary. I have also discovered the existence of something called the Select Committee on the Merits of Statutory Instruments—it must be one of the most exciting committees on which one could ever sit—which has clarified what the Minister said in his opening remarks. The real issue is the safety of the people being sent back to these countries in the event of their having to make their appeals from those countries and whether there is a general and serious risk of persecution in those countries; it is not the number of asylum seekers applying from a particular country. The numbers are very large, and the number of successful applications is very small in comparison. That is a real challenge for the Home Office, but it is not the principle that we are discussing today, and I am happy that the Select Committee has made that clear.

There are a few frustrations in trying to do one’s homework on this subject. I, too, felt the slight frustration expressed by hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) about being unable to get hold of all the facts and figures. It would have been useful to be able to get hold of the three Home Office country reports and bulletins on the countries in question. I checked on the Home Office website. The Nigeria country report is there in all its glory—I shall refer to it in a moment—but the draft bulletin on Mongolia is not on the website, so we have to manage with the one from 2003, and there is no mention at all
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of the bulletin for Ghana. The Minister’s adviser is nodding, but I have the list in my hand and those two bulletins are not on the website—I looked last night.

Luckily the independent Advisory Panel on Country Information has its own commentaries on all three documents on its website, so we are getting, albeit at second hand, a clearer picture of the human rights situation in each country. That shows how right the Liberal Democrats were to press for the speedy establishment of that body, although the Government were rather tardy in doing so. Its commentaries are rather editorial in nature, however, and include a list of spelling mistakes. It would have been nice if the panel had taken a more active role in commenting on the human rights situation. [Interruption.] Would the hon. Member for Enfield, North (Joan Ryan) like to challenge me on that? Apparently not.

It is striking how far each of the three countries has come in a short time. Their Governments deserve our congratulations on their progress towards democracy, freedom and the rule of law. Ghana has suffered a succession of one-party socialist and military regimes and has had uninterrupted democracy only since 1992. Nigeria had a military dictatorship as recently as 1998, although it has now established its own national human rights commission, which sounds like a good example to follow. Mongolia, too, established a national human rights commission in 2001. The Minister might like to refer to its status report on human rights in the country, which is a very useful source. Mongolia established a democracy for the first time ever at the beginning of the 1990s.

The three countries have made remarkable progress, but it is a big step to assume from that that there is no serious risk of persecution in those countries, that asylum applications in general are likely to be unfounded and that it is safe for people to return to those countries to make an appeal. I draw the Minister’s attention to Ukraine, which was added to the list in 2003—rather prematurely, it seems, as its Government turned out to be rather less amiable than our Government assumed them to be at the time and were not beyond poisoning their presidential candidates the following year. We should not rush to include countries in the list, as there is a particular risk in doing so. Unlike countries with long histories of democracy, if one scratches the surface of countries in which the transfer to democracy has been very recent, as in these three countries, one discovers that often, despite the best and most sincere efforts of their Governments, the police and the security forces in particular find it difficult to kick some old habits.

I drawn hon. Members’ attention to the advisory panel’s commentary on the Ghana country information bulletin of June 2005. I do not have the bulletin itself, but the advisory panel refers to it. Rather confusingly, it calls it a report and a bulletin, but I assume that it is referring to the same document. It states:

    “The Report achieves its aims of providing general background information about the issues most commonly raised in asylum/human rights claims made in the United Kingdom . . . It presents a
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    country in which, often in spite of its government’s best intentions, human rights violations remain a fairly common threat to citizens”.

It continues:

    “The Bulletin highlights cases of unlawful arrest and detention; police corruption and brutality; a judiciary of often compromised independence; a swamped legal system; and the desperate state of the nation’s prisons. The problems of politically linked violence and other infringements on human rights are identified, with references to occasional acts by state agents against opposition supporters.”

The general drift of the Government’s advice seems to be that it is not a country to which it is safe to send people back.

Turning to Nigeria, the Foreign Office country profile describes Nigeria as having

    “a large and active civil society and a free and vibrant press.”

That is good, but it continues:

    “Human rights abuses still occur, largely at the hands of the ill-trained security forces. The use of torture, beatings and extra-judicial killings are still reported. In carrying out security operations, the Army has committed serious abuses of human rights”.

Amnesty International draws attention, as did the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham, to the risks involved in those states in the north of Nigeria that apply sharia law. It mentions the case of Amina Lawal, saying that

    “While Amina Lawal’s conviction was quashed”—

she was threatened with being stoned to death—

    “an appeal for another court case involving a death penalty sentence against Fatima Usman and Ahmadu Ibrahim is still pending with a Sharia Court of Appeal in Minna, Niger State. Basic rights to freedom of expression and association and the right to privacy are still threatened by some parts of Sharia penal legislation in Nigeria.”

Amnesty International also draws attention to human rights violations in the Niger delta. In a recent report, it said:

    “Ten years after the execution of writer and human rights activist Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight fellow activists, new evidence shows that the peoples of Nigeria’s oil producing Niger Delta continue to face death and devastation at the hands of the security forces.”

If the Minister does not want to believe Amnesty International, he should hear what The Economist has to say:

    “Nigeria’s police are well known for extorting bribes from drivers at checkpoints and for their heavy-handed treatment of suspected criminals. Despite the end of military rule in 1999, ill-paid officers are still a law unto themselves, and torture, beatings and extrajudicial killings persist”.

If he does not want to trust external sources, he should refer to the Home Office country report of April 2005, which quotes the US State Department saying of Nigeria:

    “The Government’s human rights record remained poor, and the Government continued to commit serious abuses . . . Security forces committed extrajudicial killings and used excessive force. There were several politically motivated killings by unknown persons during the year. Security forces regularly beat prisoners, criminal suspects, detainees, and convicted prisoners.

It continues:

    “Security forces continued to arrest and detain persons arbitrarily, including for political reasons. Prolonged pretrial detention remained serious problem.”

The same report also cites Human Rights Watch, which spoke about

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    “The persistent failure of the Nigerian government to prosecute the perpetrators of serious human rights violations has contributed to a devastating cycle of inter-communal conflict. The violence is exacerbated by the inadequate protection of civilians by the security forces”—

a relevant consideration. Human Rights Watch also states:

    “No-one has yet been brought to justice for the massacre of hundreds of people by the military in Odi, Bayelsa state, in 1999, and in Benue state, in 2001. The police continue to commit numerous extra-judicial killings, acts of torture and arbitrary arrests. Several opponents or critics of the government have been arrested, harassed, and intimidated.”

The Home Office also cites Nigeria’s national human rights commission, about which the British-Danish fact-finding mission said:

    “Within the last twelve months NHRC received approximately 800 complaints regarding extra-judicial killings, domestic violence, authorities’ misuse of power, illegal arrests and detention, police violence”—

and so on. The British-Danish fact-finding mission also noted:

    “In general the NPF”—

the Nigeria police force—

    “has a long history of abuse and violence and it is difficult to change its course and transform it into a democratic institution.”

The Home Office also quotes the fact-finding mission’s conversation with somebody called Yusuf from the Daily Trust newspaper, who

    “explained that a court case can take many years and as accused armed robbers might be able to avoid trial through bribery the police officers might take suspects out of the town and shoot them. According to Yusuf such extra-judicial killings are frequent and widespread.”

The same report quotes the State Department saying that

    “Police and the armed forces were instructed to use lethal force against suspected criminals and suspected vandals near oil pipelines in the Niger Delta Region”,

and that

    “The Federal anticrime taskforce, also known as ‘Operation Fire for Fire,’ was among the most frequent human rights offenders . . . They generally operated with impunity in the apprehension, illegal detention, and sometimes execution of criminal suspects.”

Let me give one last quote from the Home Office report, which cities Human Rights Watch’s statement that “The improvements since 1999”—nobody is denying that there have been improvements in Nigeria—

    “combined with President Obasanjo’s stated commitments to respecting human rights, have blinded, observers to a number of ongoing abusive practices by the government and the security forces. Although less violent and ruthless than those of previous governments, these practices are clearly intended to deter criticism and intimidate potential opponents. While continuing to tolerate a fairly high level of verbal criticism, the authorities have often cracked down on individuals whom they perceive as too persistent in their opposition or who have touched on sensitive or controversial areas.”

Since this is his Department’s report, the Minister will know that there is page after page of such comments. The report goes on to discuss communal violence, religious violence, intimidating people and vigilante groups, some of which are sponsored by state governments. Clearly, Nigeria is not a safe country to which to return people.

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Finally, on Mongolia, I start by quoting the United Nations Development Programme, which says that “Life in Mongolia”—[Interruption.] I am sorry that the hon. Member for Dudley, North (Mr. Austin) is bored, but this is a matter of life and death for some people. He should not have come to the Committee if he is so bored by the subject. The UN Development Programme states:

    “Life in Mongolia is generally harsh, and the enjoyment of human rights in detention centers, in police stations, in the schools, hospitals, and the streets falls far below both national and international standards.”

I referred earlier to the Mongolian Government’s laudable initiative of setting up the national human rights commission of Mongolia. The commission publishes a regular status report and, luckily, its website contains the report in English as well as Mongolian. The report says:

    “Protection of human rights in the operations of law enforcement agencies and in practice of the legal profession, especially in criminal prosecution, is the most serious human rights challenge in Mongolia.”

The immigration and nationality directorate draft bulletin from 2003 said:

    “The Constitution provides that no person shall be searched, arrested, detained, or deprived of liberty except by law . . . however, arbitrary arrest and detention remained problems . . . NGOs have complained of cases of torture used by police interrogators in pre-trial detention centres.”

The Advisory Panel on Country Information provides a useful commentary on the July 2005 Home Office bulletin, which is currently unavailable to us. It states:

    “As an example of judicial malpractice, NHRCM”—

the national human rights commission of Mongolia—

    “cites the case of an individual picked up by the authorities in 1995 and eventually released seven years later because the case against him could not be proven. During detention this individual had by the court been sentenced to death three times, sentenced to 25 years imprisonment three times, and held for five years in a high security prison, and then released”.

The panel then quotes the commission:

    “There are numerous complaints from individuals concerning facts of police brutal[ity] and violation of human rights. Police authority is extremely reluctant to effectively respond to such claims and to investigate and punish, if necessary, the abuser.”

The panel’s commentary continues with another quote from the commission:

    “As for persons being held in pretrial detention the possibilities to obtain an advocate are scarce . . . in 42.4 per cent. of criminal cases . . . the pretrial investigation proceedings, including collection of the body of evidence, was carried out without providing any legal aid to the suspects or defendants. Interestingly, in most of these cases attorney services were made available during the trial, or even worse after the court ruling was issued, mainly when the convict asked for an appeal . . . 19.1 per cent. of the respondents answered that legal aid was provided on demand whereas 33.1 per cent. of the questioned had confirmed that they were denied . . . their request to be provided . . . an advocate”.

There is more in the commentary on torture, as the Minister will be aware, since the panel is one of his Department’s advisory bodies. The document includes a quotation from Manfred Nowak, the special rapporteur of the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, who visited Mongolia in June this year. Mr. Nowak said that

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    “impunity in Mongolia for violations of torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment goes unimpeded because of the absence in the Criminal Code of a definition of torture in line with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. He also noted a lack of effective mechanisms to receive and investigate allegations of ill-treatment and a basic lack of awareness primarily on behalf of prosecutors, lawyers and the judiciary of the international standards relating to the prohibition of torture. There is consequently no recourse of compensation and rehabilitation for torture and other forms of ill treatment.”

That all adds up to quite a convincing case. The most convincing parts of it are drawn from the Home Office’s own documents and advisory panel. At the very least, I agree with the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham that the countries on the list ought to be reviewed. However, it is extremely clear from the Home Office documents that the draft order, which would add three countries to the list, is a step too far. The Minister ought to withdraw the order and reconsider it. If he does not do that, I shall oppose the order.

9.42 am

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