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Asylum and Immigration Policy

Simon Hughes: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make it his policy that country assessments in relation to asylum and immigration policy are undertaken by an independent body; and if he will make a statement. [27843]

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Angela Eagle: The country assessments are compiled from a wide variety of sources, including reports from media and non-governmental agencies, and advice from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, its high commissions and embassies. All the source material is cited throughout, and the vast majority is readily available in the public domain.

We have commissioned an evaluation of the contents and accessibility of country information in the asylum process. This work includes an assessment of whether the information provided by the Country Information and Policy Unit, including the country assessments, meets the needs of users. The finalised report will provide systematic, additional evidence on which to base decisions whether any further mechanisms might prove useful.

Firearm Officers (Suspension)

Mr. Hurst: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many firearm officers serving in police forces in England and Wales were suspended from duty in 2000; and what was the average length of time from suspension to re-instatement or discharge. [26961]

Mr. Denham: This information is not held centrally and it could be obtained only at disproportionate cost.

Immigration Detainees

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he expects to meet his target that no immigration detainees will be held in prisons by the end of January 2000. [27732]

Angela Eagle: I refer the hon. Member to the answer my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary gave to my hon. Friend the Member for Battersea (Martin Linton) on 14 January 2002, Official Report, column 97W.

Parliamentary Questions

Mr. Steen: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he will provide substantive answers to questions 14618, 14619 and 14622 following his holding answers on 14 November 2001. [27041]

Mr. Denham: I replied to the hon. Member on 15 January 2002, Official Report, column 178W.

Young Offenders

Adam Price: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to reduce the numbers of children aged 10 to 16 years in young offender institutions and secure units. [26859]

Beverley Hughes: The Government believe that juveniles should be sent to custody only as a last resort. That is why we have greatly strengthened and expanded the range of non-custodial sentencing options available to the courts. These include the Reparation Order, the Action Plan Order, the Parenting Order, the Supervision Order, and Curfew Orders with electronic monitoring for 10 to 15-year-olds.

In July last year the Youth Justice Board for England and Wales launched the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme (ISSP). This £45 million scheme provides courts with a robust alternative for 2,500

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persistent juvenile offenders who would otherwise face a custodial sentence or remand. ISSP brings together intensive supervision with unprecedented levels of surveillance, aimed at protecting the community while tackling offending behaviour. Each juvenile has an individually tailored package of reparation, training and education measures and courses to tackle specific issues such as drug addiction or anger management, and may be electronically tagged or, in some cases, voice verified, as part of the intensive surveillance.

For some young people the seriousness and/or persistence of their offending may mean that a custodial sentence is the only appropriate response. We are therefore working with the Youth Justice Board to help ensure that custodial penalties are served in facilities which provide a positive and constructive regime focused on preventing re-offending.

People Trafficking

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will list the agencies (a) in the UK and (b) abroad involved in the interception and prosecution of people who traffic in human beings. [26906]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: People trafficking is recognised worldwide as a heinous crime which requires concerted national, European and international effort. Project Reflex is the multi-agency response to organised immigration crime, including people trafficking. Led by the National Crime Squad, Reflex brings together all the key agencies involved in the interception and prosecution of people who traffic in human beings into the United Kingdom. The main agencies are the Immigration Service, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, the security and intelligence agencies, Europol, Customs and Excise and key police forces including the Metropolitan police, Kent and the British Transport police.

Under Reflex, the United Kingdom has co-operated with law enforcement agencies in several other European Union member states and countries further afield, such as the Balkans, Hong Kong and Australia, to intercept and prosecute traffickers. The UK law enforcement agencies have also worked with Europol on its Organised Crime Situation Report which makes reference to the problem of people trafficking across Europe.

We have established an international network of Immigration Liaison Officers (ILOs) in the key countries through which the traffickers transit en-route to the United Kingdom. Their purpose is to encourage and support action to disrupt the activities of criminal gangs and develop a joint intelligence structure.

Mr. Streeter: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what relationship his Department has with Interpol; and what discussions have taken place in the past three months about the trafficking of human beings. [26905]

Mr. Bob Ainsworth: The Home Office's relationship with the International Criminal Police Organisation—Interpol—is primarily through the National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS), which is home to the London bureau of Interpol. Interpol has its headquarters in Lyon, France and has 179 member countries, each with a bureau in the capital city. The London bureau is one of the

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world's busiest with approximately 65 staff handling over 12,000 new cases each year. NCIS Director General John Abbott also sits on the Interpol Executive Committee.

NCIS has been a major contributor to a far-reaching project managed by Interpol HQ in Lyon concerning the illegal trafficking of human beings. This is a multi- national, multi-agency project aimed at improving the collection and sharing of information on organised crime groups involved in illegal immigration and the trafficking of people.

As Director General of NCIS, John Abbott is also a member of Project Reflex, a multi-agency task force which co-ordinates anti-trafficking operations and develops the intelligence and strategic planning to support them.


Mr. Andrew Turner: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applications were made for visa renewal in each year since 1997; and what was the (a) average and (b) upper decile time taken to determine applications in each year. [25997]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 11 January 2002]: Statistics on the number of general and settlement applications for further leave to remain received and the upper decile time taken to determine applications are not available.

Information on the number of applications decided, 1997 to 2000 is given in the table.

The average time, in days, to decide applications for further leave to remain in the United Kingdom was 46 in 1997 and 49 in 1998. This includes applications decided on the day in the Public Enquiry Offices and excludes asylum-related decisions. Comparable data for later years are not available.

Decisions on applications for an extension of leave to remain(22) in the United Kingdom and settlement(23), excluding EEA nationals 1997–2000

Total decisions

(22) Excludes dependants of principal applicants, asylum related decisions, the outcome of appeals and withdrawn applications.

(23) Excludes 'in line' dependants and the outcome of appeals.

Mr. Laws: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to investigate the delays in processing the visa application Ref. N1048443, date of birth 15 May 1972; if he will set up an inquiry into the reasons for the delay; and if he will make a statement. [25635]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 10 January 2002]: This case has been reviewed by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND), the result of which is set out in my reply of 16 January 2002 to the hon. Member's letter of 19 December 2001. I apologise to the hon. Member and his constituent for IND's mishandling of this case but as the circumstances have been established I see no grounds for setting up an inquiry.

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Mr. Drew: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will extend the time span for visas for those studying in this country. [26783]

Angela Eagle [holding answer 14 January 2002]: Students who have been accepted for a course of study will normally be granted leave to enter or remain to cover the whole duration of the course, unless there is any reason not to do so. Subject to the requirements of the Immigration Rules being met, students on courses of one year or more that finish in the summer will be granted leave until 31 October following the end of the course. For courses that do not follow the standard autumn to summer pattern, an additional two months leave is added to the end of course date. These extra months give students the opportunity to plan the next step of their career. Information regarding the length of leave to enter or remain to be granted to students may be found on the Immigration and Nationality Directorate website in the Immigration Directorate Instructions (Chapter 3).

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