ASSISTANCE IN CASES OF TRANSIT FOR EXPULSION
Letter from the Chairman to The Lord Filkin,
CBE, Under-Secretary of State, Home Office
Sub-Committee F (Social Affairs, Education and
Home Affairs) considered this proposal at its meeting on 23 October.
The Committee noted the Government's concerns
about the implications of the measure for the United Kingdom as
a major airport hub, but we did not find the reasons given in
the Explanatory Memorandum entirely persuasive. The Committee
agrees that, wherever possible, a direct non-stop flight should
be used for expulsionsand the Government may wish to seek
to write such a provision into the Directivebut this is
likely to be the preferred option for all Member States anyway.
They would choose to use a flight involving transiting another
Member State only where a direct flight was not available. Secondly,
the Government is concerned about the risk of further asylum claims
or absconding en route. This is clearly a risk, but it is presumably
the objective of the proposal to minimise it by introducing formal
escorting procedures. The Committee accepts that there are likely
to be resource implications (although existing procedures involving
transit presumably give rise to some costs) but in the absence
of any estimate of what they might amount to the Committee does
not see this as a reason for rejecting the proposal.
The Committee understands that the Government
has not yet decided whether to opt in to the measure and will
therefore hold it under scrutiny in the meantime and we would
be grateful to be informed of any further developments.
28 October 2002
Letter from Lord Filkin to the Chairman
Thank you for your letter of 28 October. You
have made several observations further to the Explanatory Memorandum
dated 24 September, to which I would like to respond.
Before addressing your specific observations,
I thought it would be helpful to provide some information on the
question of the UK's decision whether to opt into the initiative.
The timetable for UK opt-in has been complicated by the fact that
Germany had not formally presented this initiative before discussion
of the document commenced within the Council. We are therefore
not yet required to make a decision on the UK opt-in, and indeed
it will not be possible to make such a decision until we see the
shape of the formal proposal itself.
As you are aware, the Government's policy approach
to First Pillar, Title IV measures was announced to Parliament
in March 1999. The UK looks to adopt a positive approach to participation
in Title IV measures, provided that the measure in question is
consistent with our policy of retaining frontier controls and
discretion as to the persons admitted to our territory.
We fully support the objective of increasing
operational co-operation with EU partners on returns and would
hope to be able to co-operate further on transit. However, as
the Explanatory Memorandum explains, we do have some serious concerns
with the current text of this transit initiative and the implications
for the UK as a major airport hub. These concerns are legal, logistical
and related to resources. Other Member States which host major
airport hubs will be similarly affected.
I note that the Committee concurs with the Government's
view that, wherever possible, a direct non-stop flight should
be used for expulsions. You further note that this is likely to
be the preferred option for all member states. The Government
is concerned, however, that as currently drafted, the existence
of a direct route is not a reason to refuse transit. Transit may
be preferred to a direct flight, if for example, the direct flights
are infrequent, or if there are no seats available on a direct
You note that the Government is concerned about
the risk of further asylum claims or absconding en route, that
this is a risk, but that the objective of the proposal would be
to minimise it by introducing formal escorting procedures. I agree
that, whilst formal escorting may prevent absconding, it cannot
prevent claims for asylum in the transit Member State. In addition,
article 5(8) of the German proposal makes provision for unescorted
The Committee has acknowledged that there are
likely to be resource implications arising from this proposal.
The assistance expected of transiting Member States, set out in
article 4, includes staff resources, medical care, food for returnee
and escorts and the possibly detention facilities. In addition,
as currently drafted, almost all of these costs are to be borne
by the transiting Member State.
We would hope to be able to co-operate with
EU partners on transit, though we need to bear in mind the impact
of such an initiative on the UK's capacity to implement its own
removals. The final decision on whether the UK opts in will depend
on the details of the proposal presented. We will keep you informed
of further developments concerning this initiative.
15 November 2002