Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120.
TUESDAY 13 JUNE 2000
120. To clarify in my own mind, you are saying
that the 51 Convention is now used as a claim for asylum. It is,
in fact, a cover for economic migration, yet we have had Bosnia,
Kosovo, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, what proportion are you saying
are using this as a cloak or what proportion do you think is true?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I have to be careful on the use of
economic migration. I am talking about people who judge they can
have a more satisfactory life in the developed west than the country
they come from. The evidence of that is the figures for those
who claim asylum and in those who are given it and in those who
are not given it. Roughly speaking, after the appeal process we
are talking about thirty per cent who will be allowed to stay
in some way of other, with full refugee status or not. The other
seventy per cent are given a negative answer. One can add to that,
anecdotes associated with the opening of a new reception at Oakington
outside Cambridgeshire. We have had people who previously made
their claim at the port and have been told to disappear and come
back for an interview later, expecting a long, slow process before
decisions. We have told them now they have to go to Oakington
and if they appeal they can expect the result of the appeal in
three weeks. They say, "No thank you, we are going away".
This is anecdotal rather than statistical. That is a small piece
of evidence to back up the points I was making.
121. It was obvious to most of us when we went
to Calais that one of the solutions to this was to handle this
issue on a European-wide basis. Do you think that because of our
position on Schengen that the EU States are not willing to co-operate
on that basis?
(Mr Boys Smith ) Not on asylum issues. We have our
protocol in the Amsterdam Treaty. Our European partners understand
that position and respect it, they may wish it was otherwise.
The Government has indicated, because of that, that there are
a number of immigration related matters on which it cannot enter
into partnership with other EU countries. At the same time it
is made clear, and ministers announced this the best part of a
year ago, it does wish to develop co-operation on asylum issues.
We are doing that in the EU fora. There is no indication, at all,
that other EU states do not want to co-operate on asylum because
of our frontier position.
122. How close do you think we are to a common
system of dealing with asylum seekers in the system? How close
(Mr Boys Smith ) Discussions are going on about reception
arrangements for asylum seekers, voluntarily over a significant
number of years, and the UK is determined to be in there with
others on these discussions.
123. Once asylum seekers claim asylum they are
allowed to work in the UK.
(Mr Boys Smith ) After 6 months.
124. Are they allowed to work in France? This
is one of the issues that may be impelling people towards the
(Mr Boys Smith ) It may be that is one reason why,
the availability of work after 6 months, in the event of a decision
not being taken. We are looking at that policy. I should just
add, of course, that the target, which I am confident we will
reach, for an average of two months for decision and four months
for an appeal, by April of next year, even if the policies were
not changed, most cases will have been settled before they are
entitled lawfully to work.
125. Has the Dublin Convention proved to be
a bit of a flop?
(Mr Boys Smith ) It has not fulfilled the ambitions
that were held at the time it was inaugurated, that is, undoubtedly,
the case. We do benefit from the Dublin Convention. We are major
exporters under the terms of the Dublin Convention. It is a rather
slow business in individual cases and we wish it were quicker
and slicker. Now discussions are in hand and one of the outcomes
from Tampere was to review all that and have all new arrangements
in place by 2004. Discussions have only just started to see how
we can do that. The Commission has launched an initial paper and
there will be a questionnaire with a shared agenda and we want
to look for a rather slicker arrangement. Parallel arrangements
will come in for the sharing of finger print information, which
will be one way for those countries that have suitable systems
of ensuring the identification of those who claim asylum in another
country, which is one of the criteria of the Dublin Convention,
it can be quick and can put identity beyond any doubt. In conjunction
with that we are inaugurating our own computerised fingerprint
system here in the United Kingdom, which will be a lot quicker.
126. Is that going to happen or is that wishful
(Mr Boys Smith ) My job is on the line if it does
not happen. I believe that it will. I should say, that this target
is not dealing with all asylum seekers. There will be difficult
ones which will take longer. We will deal with the majority of
those in the two months, plus the four months. I think we will
achieve that and we are already achieving that for a relatively
small number now going to Oakington. We are achieving it in ample
measure, for example, in the case of over seventy per cent of
family cases that are dealt with within two months. Of course,
the figure, a target, will apply to new cases rather than those
still in the backlog.
127. Are these targets going to be achieved,
and convince me otherwise, at the extent of back-sliding with
(Mr Boys Smith ) I do not think so. We are fast expanding
separately. From the figures of additional staffing I referred
to earlier on, the whole of the IND is expanding significantly
and in the current year we will go up by over 2,000 in total.
Most of that effort is going into the caseworking operation, so
the plan is to take over 100,000 asylum decisions during the course
of the present financial year. In the last few months, in March
it was a long working month, in terms of working weeks, we took
over 11,000 decisions. We took nearly 10,000 in April, then virtually
10,000 again in May, not withstanding all of the bank holidays.
We are well on target to take over 100,000 decisions. Assuming
the intake is, as I say, about 5,000 to 6,000 a month, it will
not be at the expense of the backlog. You will see the backlog
reducing fast, as it is already reducing fast. I have forgotten
the figures we had in our evidence. It is now down to 88,000.
That is a huge figure, a huge challenge for me but it is fast
128. Are you in control of the situation?
(Mr Boys Smith ) I believe we are.
Chairman: Thank you, Mr Boys Smith, and your
colleagues, you have been very helpful. It gives me the opportunity
to thank you for the helpful assistance by many of your staff,
some of whose faces I see here this morning, and, of course, your
colleagues in the other services. We have been, all of us, very
impressed with what we have seen at port level, not least the
commitment and the determination of the staff to get on with it.
They want to do the job. They know the job and they want to do
it. The impression they gave to me was they welcomed resources
and they are going to deliver on that. Thank you very much, indeed.