The Work of the Committee in 2007-08 - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents

Letter from Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP, Home Secretary, dated 10 November 2008

  When I gave evidence to you on Tuesday 28 October 2008 I undertook to write with information on several points.

1.  Mr Timpson asked how many terrorist suspects we have been unable to deport in recent years because of the prohibition of torture under Article 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights

  The Government will always seek to deport foreign national terrorists and terrorist suspects. However, in doing so, we must act in a way which is consistent with our international obligations, including under the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR). This means that deportation action cannot be taken where there are substantial reasons for believing that there is a real risk that someone would face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the country concerned. Similarly, we would not remove someone if there was a real risk that they would face execution.

  The way in which individual immigration decisions are recorded means it is not possible to identify every instance where our obligations under Article 3 have prevented the deportation of a terrorist suspect. However:

    (a) Sixteen individuals were certified under Part 4 of the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001 as suspected international terrorists by the then Home Secretary and were detained on the basis that, in our view, their removal was prevented by a point of law which related wholly or partly to an international agreement (one other person was also certified under Part 4, but was detained under other powers). Those detained, in accordance with the provisions of Part 4, had the right to leave the UK at any time and two elected to do so. Six more have subsequently been deported. In the case of the latter group, we had sought or were in the process of seeking diplomatic assurances from the receiving state.

    (b) Since 2005, there have been 19 cases where deportation action on national security grounds was commenced, but was later discontinued because it was concluded that it would not be possible to demonstrate that removal would be in conformity with our international obligations (these cases are, of course, kept under review for future deportation action).

    (c) In addition to those 19 cases, there are a number of other cases involving terrorist suspects where deportation action was not progressed as it was concluded at an early stage that Article 3 considerations would prevent removal. It has not been possible to identify from the data collected centrally how many cases have been considered. However, such cases are kept under review.

    (d) Finally, there are currently 11 cases where we are seeking to depot individuals because of their suspected involvement in terrorism, which are at various stages in the appeals process. In all of these cases, the appellants are claiming that their removal will result in a breach of our obligations under Article 3.

2.  Sri Lanka, rule 39 and the case of NA

  In respect of NA Sri Lanka, my answer to the Committee on the outcome of that case was correct. The ECHR considered that there was no general risk of mistreatment to Tamils in Sri Lanka and that any individual asylum decision should be based on a fair assessment of the general situation in Sri Lanka and the individual circumstances of the asylum claim.

  The ECHR issued Rule 39 indications on Sri Lanka pending the outcome of the case of NA. These have now been withdrawn and the cases are currently being considered on the individual circumstances in line with NA and existing country guidance caselaw which NA endorsed.

  On your question as to whether 1,400 cases have to work their way through the European Court of Human Rights, our records indicate that there are no more than 450 cases where Rule 39 measures were indicated by the European Court in respect of Sri Lankan Tamil Claimants and NA.

3.  The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

  As you are aware, I announced a review of the reservation in January, which consisted of an internal assessment of the risks associated with withdrawing the reservation and a public consultation. This review led to the conclusion that developments in UK law and practice, including the proposed introduction in the UK Border Agency of a Code of Practice for Keeping Children Safe from Harm, meant that an immigration-based reservation was no longer necessary.

  No additional changes to legislation or significant amendments to guidance and practice are currently envisaged but all relevant UKBA staff will be advised through our internal communications network when the formal process of withdrawing the reservation is completed, which is expected to be later this month.

4.  The UN Disability Convention

  The question of whether to enter an immigration reservation when ratifying the UN Disability Convention is currently under consideration and I will write to the Committee shortly.

5.  United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (UNCCPR)

  We have no current plans to remove the immigration reservation attached to the United Nations Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Supplementary note from Rt Hon Jacqui Smith MP, Home Secretary, in answer to the Committee's question on Human Trafficking

How many places do you think there should be, nationwide, and when will they exist?

  We already have comprehensive support provisions in place for victims of human trafficking and we intend to build on our existing arrangements next year. The Impact Assessment relating to the Council of Europe Convention against trafficking placed in the House Library on 7 October describes in some detail our projections for the number of victims of trafficking we expect to encounter and how we will cater for their needs. It is intended that there will be a flexible accommodation resource that operates on a national basis for victims of all forms of trafficking.

  In England and Wales we will be seeking to grant fund approximately 55 intensive crisis refuge places for victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation and domestic servitude that are destitute and have no recourse to public funds, with advocacy support for others. The intention is for the crisis places to be on a rolling basis to cover the `reflection period' with victims that qualify for temporary residence receiving access to public funds and moving into longer term accommodation. Separate arrangements are being developed for victims of other forms of trafficking for forced labour where the level of need is less clear. This will involve upskilling existing service providers to provide advice and support with a flexible central fund to meet crisis accommodation and other expenses. These victims will also be able to apply for longer-term support and temporary residence. Scotland and Northern Ireland will also put in place similar Convention compliant support arrangements. Having a flexible system that can cater for individual needs is crucial to assisting victims' in their recovery and will hopefully encourage individuals to seek justice. It will also enable us to meet the requirements of the Convention in a cost effective manner. Arrangements will be in place at the beginning of the next financial year (April 2009).

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