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Page 2, line 7, at end insert ("without giving a reasonable explanation of his failure to do so").

The noble Lord said: My Lords, I should like to say a few words also about Amendment No. 16. These amendments seek to provide some safeguards as regards the removal of asylum claimants to safe third countries.

Amendment No. 8 is concerned with when an individual arrives possibly with a forged passport. The purpose of the amendment is to prevent the authorities coming down harshly on that individual, because the amendment would give the asylum seeker an opportunity to give a reasonable explanation of his failure to have made the authorities immediately aware of his documentation.

Amendment No. 16 is concerned with late claims. Article 31 of the UNHCR convention, to which reference was made in Committee on this issue, states:

There may be instances when individuals have a good explanation for why their documents are not in order, and why they failed immediately to inform the officer of that fact. It may well be that individuals are just not aware of the significance of that, or want some time in which they can make their claim, and prefer to do so when they can obtain advice from members of their own communities, or legal or other help. There are good reasons why people might wish to delay.

An asylum seeker might arrive in the UK on a false passport and the forgery be undetected. The asylum seeker passes through immigration control, and the following day may apply for asylum at Lunar House and admit that the passport is false. In that case, despite the fact that the asylum seeker had volunteered information that the passport was false, if refused, the case will fall into the accelerated procedure, since the person

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produced an invalid passport to the immigration officer, and failed to inform the officer of that fact on first arrival.

If there is a good reason for that position, it seems unreasonable that the asylum seeker should be treated in the way that he would be if the amendment were not accepted. The words, "without giving a reasonable explanation", are moderate and sensible.

There may be other instances--Amendment No. 16 may deal with them--when asylum seekers may be arrested and charged with having false documents and convicted, often with a recommendation for deportation. That may happen to people whose false documents have been detected, possibly while they are in transit; that is to say, individuals who had no intention of claiming asylum in the UK, but whose documents were detected in transit. As the UN convention protects only persons coming directly from a third country, an asylum seeker who is travelling from one country to another may have no option, to prevent deportation, but to claim asylum in the UK.

Those are complicated situations. They may not affect many people, but they affect enough. I am looking for the House to accept an amendment which enables the person to show good cause why the claim was not made earlier. Those are safeguards against the way in which Clause 1 will deal with those individuals. I know that we discussed them at some length in Committee, but Amendment No. 16 is somewhat different from the one we had before us then. I beg to move.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, before the Minister responds, perhaps I may add a word or two to the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. There are one or two subsequent amendments which deal with the same issue. To sum up, the issue is that some people--they are often people from the most threatened countries--travel with false documents. There are some cases which will be familiar to the Minister and the House where people have endured the most extreme conditions. They are unable to leave their country with valid documentation. They would not be able to obtain it because they are seen as opponents or critics by the country concerned.

I fully appreciate the point that such people should make it clear as early as possible that they have come under a false document; and that they should be honest with the immigration authorities. There is a later amendment that I have tabled which refers to someone who, on all other grounds, would be accepted as an asylum seeker, save only that his or her documents are not valid. I wonder whether the Minister would refer to that issue. I am sure that she, being experienced in these matters, will appreciate that people who travel with false documents often come from the very countries which are the most serious in terms of the way that they treat their dissidents, their critics and the people who are trying to organise democratic opposition. I hope that on

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those grounds alone people would not be refused asylum if, on all other grounds, they could satisfy the authorities of the validity of their claims.

Baroness Seccombe: My Lords, I appreciate the fact that many people may travel with false documents and I believe that the immigration authorities would understand that. However, it seems to me strange that if people are coming to this country as a place of refuge they do not see it as a safe place and somewhere where they can declare immediately that their documents are false. It leads to a difficulty of not taking action as provided in the Bill.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, new sub-paragraph (4)(b) would allow us to certify a refused claim if the applicant produced a false passport on arrival without informing the immigration officer that it was not valid. When a false document is produced it takes courage to lie one's way through that. One must pretend and convince people that the document is not false. That is another form of courage which is summed up by people who produce false documents.

The amendment proposes that a certificate should not be applied if an applicant gives a reasonable explanation for failing to inform the immigration officer that his passport is false. We debated fully an identical amendment tabled by the noble Lords, Lord McIntosh and Lord Dubs, during Committee. I explained in detail then why I was unable to accept the terms of the amendment. Nothing that I have heard in debate today has led me to conclude otherwise.

We have consistently made clear that we expect asylum seekers to be completely honest and frank with our immigration authorities on arrival in this country. As my noble friend Lady Seccombe said, this is the place on entry which they have come a long way to find. Having arrived here it is in their own interest that they should be honest about their documentation. We entirely accept the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, that often there will be a need to travel with false documentation in order to leave a country quickly and safely.

Dishonesty and concealment damage credibility. We accept that in principle there might be circumstances where a genuine refugee would need to use false papers in order to flee a country in which he had a genuine fear of persecution. Under the Bill, no adverse consequences arise for the asylum seeker merely because he presents an invalid, forged or stolen passport on arrival here, provided that the applicant declares the forgery to the immigration officer. But what is unacceptable, and casts doubt on credibility, is an attempt to pass off a fake identity or forged passport as genuine. It is the dishonesty inherent in such an attempt which triggers the accelerated appeal procedure. That is why we are unable to accept this amendment.

I do not believe it would be right to indicate on the face of the Bill that there may be a reasonable explanation for a blatant attempt to deceive an immigration officer. Those presenting false papers to our immigration officers are after all not doing so out of necessity. By definition, they have already fled the

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country in which they claim to fear persecution and have arrived at their chosen place of safety. Such deception cannot be condoned.

Like the rest of Clause 1, sub-paragraph (4) will not prejudice the consideration of the asylum claim on its merits. If the claim is valid, asylum or exceptional leave will be granted regardless of document deception used on arrival. And the Bill will not penalise the genuine asylum seeker who has to travel on false papers, provided that he is honest and declares the false papers on arrival.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, prayed in aid Article 31 and our reference to it in a previous debate. I reject the argument that sub-paragraph (4)(b) as currently drafted is contrary to the terms of Article 31 of the 1951 UN Convention. Article 31 states that refugees shall not be penalised on account of their illegal entry provided they present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry and presence.

First, the issue of a certificate comes into play only after the claim has been considered fully and on merit and has been found to be invalid. By definition, therefore, the Secretary of State has concluded that the applicant is not a refugee under the terms of the convention.

But, secondly, applying a certificate to a refused asylum claim, thereby triggering an accelerated appeal procedure, cannot be construed as imposing a penalty in terms of Article 31. As I have said on many occasions, all claims will still be considered on merit in the usual way. And all applicants will still have an appeal to an independent adjudicator if the claim is refused. This is a perfectly adequate procedure in such cases and cannot be termed a penalty. Moreover, those who enter or attempt to gain entry using false papers would have had ample opportunity to present themselves to the UK authorities to apply for asylum when examined by an immigration officer on arrival. It is the dishonesty inherent in deceiving the immigration officer that triggers the certificate if the claim is refused.

I turn to Amendment No. 16, which would prevent the certification of claims under sub-paragraph (5)(c)(i) and (ii) if the applicant can show good cause why the claim was not made earlier. We debated this issue at length in Committee and the Committee divided on and rejected an amendment with almost identical consequences for all four sub-paragraphs of sub-paragraph (5)(c). I am surprised that the noble Lords have sought to reopen a proposal which the Committee voted down when it rejected Amendment No. 19. I am still unable to accede to the terms of the amendment and I will explain why.

However, I must begin by pointing out that the amendment is defective. First, it does not signal properly that it is intended to apply to sub-paragraph (5). Secondly, even if that is disregarded, it would disapply sub-paragraph (5) in all cases where the claim was lodged after refusal of leave to enter or after a court had recommended deportation and where the applicant had shown good cause for not having claimed earlier. This means that we would not be able to certify an asylum claim by such an applicant even if it met other

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certification criteria, such as being manifestly fraudulent. That would not be sensible and cannot have been the intention of the noble Lord in presenting the amendment.

Turning now to substance, the underlying intention behind the amendment is unnecessary and undesirable. First, under the Bill as drafted, a certificate will be available only where the claim has been fully considered and rejected. If it is found to be a valid claim, asylum or exceptional leave will be granted despite the circumstances in which the claim was submitted. But, if the claim is not well-founded, the fact that it was submitted only after refusal of leave to enter or after a court has recommended deportation will almost invariably justify a certificate. As I have already said, we expect that a genuine refugee would apply for asylum at the earliest opportunity. We need to send a clear signal that abuse of the asylum procedures in order to frustrate enforcement of our immigration laws will be met robustly.

Sub-paragraph (5)(c)(i) affects only people who have attempted unsuccessfully to enter the country, have been found not to meet the requirements of our immigration rules and make an asylum claim to fend off the enforcement of those rules. I do not believe that we should insert into the Bill an open invitation to late applicants to provide excuses for their failure to claim earlier. Many would seek to do so. This would unnecessarily complicate the handling of cases. And most importantly, it would blunt the deterrent message we are trying to send; namely the message that blatantly abusive claims will be dealt with robustly.

Sub-paragraphs (4) and (5) address growing forms of abuse of our asylum procedures. That is an area of abuse and must be recognised as such. These amendments are undesirable for the reasons I have given. They will not address those incidents of abuse and therefore not only is Amendment No. 16 defective but it is not acceptable to me on behalf of the Government.

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