Examination of Witnesses (Questions 380
THURSDAY 20 JULY 2000
380. Last point. I understand as Director of
the Refugee Council you speak for the interests of refugees. One
of the most important contributions to their welfare would be
a faster decision making process which would give them justice
more quickly and also stop the issue of asylum getting mixed up
with the issue of illegal immigration. You do accept, do you,
that once we have a faster decision system in process then many
of the people who claim asylum will simply come as illegal immigrants
and will not prepare themselves? This is what is happening in
many other countries. It does not necessarily address that problem.
(Mr Hardwick) As you said our mandate is for refugees,
I think there would be an overall decrease. I do think what is
absolutely essential to the credibility of the institution of
asylum is good quality decisions which are quickly made and implemented.
381. We have been over this ground already but
at the European dimension your own evidence to us talks about
the possibilities of common criteria on asylum being developed
at the EU level. Bearing in mind what Ms Hanlan was good enough
to say to us about these three circles, as it were, do you think
it is possible for the European Union to develop that while at
the same time adequately respecting the provisions of the Convention?
(Mr Hardwick) I suppose I would be very cautious of
that. I am cautious about the work of the
382. What I am getting at, you would not say
"Look it is an impossible task, forget it" or would
(Mr Hardwick) No, I would not.
383. What about our lawyers?
(Ms Rogers) ILPA has recently prepared a paper on
the Dublin Convention because the Commission in Brussels is revisiting
the Convention and really looking into the problems. There have
been a huge amount of problems with the Dublin Convention.
384. Could you give us two or three for instances
with the problems?
(Ms Rogers) The problems are for instance in relation
to family reunification where that has not been respected. The
problems are where countries particularly who are on the fringes
of the Union, for instance Italy, do not have proper procedures
or have not implemented the proper procedures for finger printing
and so on, so it is very difficult for the countries in land to
then send them back to Italy because they say "We have not
heard of that person before". Also the problems have been
in delays because, you may or may not be aware, the manner in
which the Dublin Convention is operating is very slow at the moment
for various reasons.
(Ms Rogers) People can remain here in detention in
a lot of instances for up to nine months while negotiation goes
on with another Member State about whether or not they are going
to go there. By that time their claim could have been substantively
looked at in the UK and if there was a proper quality and fast
determination process it could have been decided whether or not
they were refugees rather than deciding which country to put them
into to decide whether they should be refugees.
386. You did mention Italy, Ms Rogers, and I
am happy to tell you, from a visit there earlier this year, they
are very conscious of this problem and they are going to do something
about it, not before time I might add.
(Ms Rogers) Really our view on the Dublin Convention
is that it needs to be revisited because it does not work.
(Ms Rogers) It is fundamentally at odds with the whole
conception of the European Union, because there are no borders
between the European Union then it puts up these false borders,
if you like, particularly between Schengen States but beyond that.
We would like to see a system in which it is the country where
the applicant first claims asylum that substantively looks at
the asylum claim rather than where they actually come to.
388. Forgive me, I understand exactly what you
are saying but it is a point that Jack Straw was making in Lisbon
that people have a choice where they make that claim, it does
not have to be the first safe country. They get to that first
safe country, call it Italy for the sake of argument, and say
"no, thank you very much, we do not want to claim asylum
here" and the French just ignore them, they are personnes
sans papiers as far as the French authorities are concerned,
they do not exist, and we know what they are trying to do, they
are trying to get in the back of a lorry to get here to claim
asylum. That does not get over that problem, does it?
(Ms Rogers) No, but there are very good reasons that
Nick Hardwick has picked up on and other people have picked up
on today why a person may choose to come to the UK. It is not
just a matter of safety, it may be an issue of family reunification,
it may be economic reality, it may be "can I survive?"
389. You get on to the point exactly. I understood
what was being said earlier about the impossibility of totally
separating out the asylum seekers from what we call the economic
migrants but I am sure a common EU policy on asylum is best going
to flourish where there are clear immigration policies in each
of the Member States of the Union and perhaps some of those with
features in common. In other words, if you want to emigrate to
better yourself you know exactly what you have got to do and what
your chances are of succeeding so to that extent you do not have
to get forced into a position of claiming asylum to try to achieve
(Ms Rogers) There is nothing that is better than clear
and coherent policy. One of the difficulties for asylum seekers
must be that it is all jargon and very difficult to follow. There
cannot be anything better than fast and fair and good decision
making and clear and coherent policy.
390. Would you agree that the Tampere conclusions
on the one hand want "common standards for a fair and efficient
asylum procedure" and they also want "more efficient
management of migration flows at all their stages", which
is what we have just been talking about? Are those two things
(Mr Hardwick) Yes, I do think they are compatible.
It is possible to have fair and efficient procedures and to manage
migration flows. One element of that is what we need to do is
to start to have a discussion about what our immigration policy
should be. It is such a taboo subject that it is very difficult
to talk about but, as has already been said, we need immigrants.
There are lots of economic immigrants coming here quite legitimately
at the moment. If we have a sensible policy on immigration and,
in parallel with that, good quality decision making, that would
be part of the way in which those two things are balanced.
391. Do your learned friends agree with you
(Ms Rogers) Yes. A coherent immigration policy is
necessary. The Tampere Conclusions are broadly welcomed and particularly
welcomed in the light of the opportunity or the discussion and
consultation that must come about as a result. You will be aware
that there is now a large amount of proposals and discussions
going on at Community level, at Union level, on immigration as
well as asylum and it is very important that these issues are
properly canvassed both to the public and at national level and
at EU level and not just decided in a room in Brussels and then
presented to the public and to Member States as a fait accompli,
that is not good. ILPA has made a specific response to the Tampere
Conclusions because we do feel very strongly that it is important
to consult. Part of the Tampere Conclusions are very important
in respect of not only immigration and asylum policies but also
in respect of racial discrimination and racial harmony and that
also has to be borne in mind in any immigration and asylum policy.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. Do let
me thank you, please, for your time and your patience and for
giving us your evidence so clearly. I think we have done very
well this afternoon, you have given us a great deal to think about.
Thank you very much.