Select Committee on European Union Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 60-73)



  60. I just wonder whether it is intended as that. The serious step of taking away a refugee status of, let us say, Mazzini or Garibaldi, or one of the 19th century terrorists or freedom fighters living in this country, is the position we would interpret that, in us taking away their refugee status, because they robbed a bank? It does not seem to me that is what was intended by Article 14B(4), which is why I ask the question.
  (Lord Filkin) It is a good question. I think the most sensible answer I can make is that we should look at the intersect between those two and see if we think there is any discontinuity and whether that was for a good reason, or worse, whether it was not so.

  61. I am very much obliged.
  (Lord Filkin) We will write back to you, bearing in mind Mazzini and Garibaldi when we do so.

  62. Yes. I doubt whether either gentleman was in the category, but they are just names I remember.
  (Lord Filkin) We could have had one or two others, could we not.


  63. Lord Filkin, is there not a case for trying to get consistency of language between Article 14(2), which sets out a number of serious reasons which will lead to the exclusion of somebody from being a refugee, on the one hand, and Article 14B(4), which sets out circumstances which will lead to revocation of status already granted, on the other hand? Should not the two be in the same terms so that the same criteria apply?

  (Lord Filkin) In principle, you are absolutely right.

  64. Lawyers would love these distinctions. They would argue that different results were intended.
  (Lord Filkin) Indeed. What I would like to suggest—no doubt to the horror of my officials—is that we will look at that issue and any others that either you draw our attention to, or we spot, and in what may be the limited time we have got, seek to try to suggest some legislative timing because it would be desirable to do so if there is no good reason that underpins the difference.

  65. Yes, thank you. I want, if I may, to ask you a question in relation to the level of benefits that are to be accorded to refugees and those who have been accepted. This is presumably protection. Refugees do rather better. There are a number of Articles which lead to that conclusion, but there is somehow a lack of logic about that. Once you have accepted the person for subsidiary protection—the answer may that this is just how it was negotiated—there does not seem to be any logical reason why the benefits should be different.
  (Lord Filkin) I think we would differ on that. We do think that there is a difference in the two statuses. The existence of the 1951 Convention is evidence of the special status of refugees and I think we are clear on the primacy of that status and of its importance and, as you know, once granted it is effectively a permanent grant of status and of residence. In terms of subsidiary protection, or humanitarian protection in our context, it is different in nature. It is where a person has not been found to meet the terms of the 1951 Convention, and yet there are good reasons why a return to their country of origin is not possible at this particular point in time. In our case, and I think it would be true of many other member cases, the issue of timeliness is relevant. In other words, it is seen as something that may well change in a period of time. One can think, for example, of the people who came from Kosovo who were not found to qualify under the 1951 Convention and were not found reasonable to return, but events changed and it was then reasonable to do so. Therefore, that, I think, is at heart why we and Member States do not feel that the status is identical and that it is reasonable for Member States to have discretion to make alternative levels of benefits pursuant to that.

  66. Thank you. What is the timetable that is anticipated? Are there any major negotiating difficulties that remain to be overcome, or perhaps not be overcome? I understand that the Greek Presidency wants to be able to tick this off as an achievement before the end of the term, which is the end of June, is that realistic?
  (Lord Filkin) It is slightly worse than that because it is the beginning of June. If memory serves me right, it is 6 and 7 of June, is it not?
  (Mr Douglas) That is when the Justice and the Home Affairs Council is here.

  67. They want to consider this on 6 and 7 June?
  (Lord Filkin) They would be pleased if it were possible to do so and, therefore, there is one final Council of Ministers' meeting in Luxembourg to do so.

  68. What is the Government's estimate of the chances of that succeeding?
  (Lord Filkin) I would not have thought any better than evens, without wanting to set myself up as a betting man.

  Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Can I ask a very quick question, my Lord Chairman?

  Chairman: Yes.

Lord Lester of Herne Hill

  69. I have one further question. Under the Human Rights Convention, there does not seem to be any protection for someone so far as minimum benefits, food and so on are concerned while their application is being considered. In an extreme case that would seem to me to violate Article 3 of the Convention. What is the position of the UK Government about that the absence of any protection while the claim is being considered?

  (Lord Filkin) The whole Article I think is locked back into ECHR, is it not?
  (Mr Douglas) I think that is reception.


  70. I think that is reception, is it not?

  (Mr Douglas) Yes.

  71. I think that is a matter of reception conditions and, in that case, has actually been finally agreed.
  (Mr Douglas) That is correct.

  Lord Lester of Herne Hill: In that case I am sorry to have asked the question. Thank you. It has already been asked.


  72. Do any other members of the Committee have any other questions for Lord Filkin? Lord Filkin, thank you very much indeed. You have taken rather longer than I expected to answer the very important issues and also you have been very helpful.

  (Lord Filkin) Clearly, progress as well.

  73. I am grateful to you and your colleagues for coming.
  (Lord Filkin) Thank you, Chairman.

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