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22 Oct 2002 : Column 240W—continued

Human Trafficking

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what progress his Department has made in the last 12 months in breaking up and/or bringing criminal charges against members of organised gangs who smuggle people into the UK; and if he will make a statement. [75406]

Mr Bob Ainsworth: The UK Government are determined to tackle organised immigration crime, both the smuggling and the trafficking of human beings. Reflex, the multi-agency task force was set up in 2000 specifically as the enforcement arm of our comprehensive strategy to combat organised immigration crime.

Since April 2001, Reflex has launched 83 operations, disrupted or dismantled 15 organised crime groups involved in organised immigration crime, and arrested 135 facilitators of whom 40 have been charged and 35 convicted. Currently, Reflex has 47 proactive operations underway and a further 55 under development.

Reflex has posted a senior police officer and a chief immigration officer to Romania as part of a joint project with the Romanian authorities (Reflex Romania), to target organised immigration criminals involved in smuggling and trafficking through the region. It has also established a network of Immigration Liaison Officers (ILOs) who work with other Governments to encourage and support action to disrupt criminal gangs and create a joint intelligence structure. ILOs are already posted at nine key locations across Eastern Europe and the Balkans.

Prague Airport

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if the pre-clearance checks programme operating at Prague airport will be extended to other airports in Europe or elsewhere; and if he will make a statement. [75425]

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Beverley Hughes: There are no plans at this time to deploy pre-clearance operations at any airport other than Prague.

Czech Romanies

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Czech Romanies have, in each of the last three years, (a) applied for asylum in the UK, (b) been granted asylum and (c) been removed having failed to achieve asylum status. [75407]

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Beverley Hughes: It is not possible to say how many asylum applicants from the Czech Republic are of Romany origin. Data on the ethnic origin of asylum seekers are not collated centrally and are therefore not available; the number of those who applied would only be available by examination of individual case-files at disproportionate cost.

The tables show the number of applications, initial decisions and removals of nationals of the Czech Republic for the last three years.

Applications received for asylum in the United Kingdom, and initial decisions(26),(27), 1999–2001 for nationals of the Czech Republic
Number of principal applicants

Applications received(28)Initial Decisions(29) Cases considered under normal procedures(30) Backlog clearance exercise(31)
Granted asylumGranted ELRRefusedGranted asylum or ELR under backlog criteriaRefused under backlog criteria(32)


(26) Figures rounded to the nearest 5, with * = 1 or 2.

(27) Decision figures do not necessarily relate to applications received in the same period.

(28) May exclude some cases lodged at Local Enforcement Offices between January and March 2000.

(29) Information is of initial decisions, excluding the outcome of appeals or other subsequent decisions.

(30) Cases considered under normal procedures may include some cases decided under the backlog criteria.

6 Cases decided under measures aimed at reducing the pre 1996 asylum application backlog.

(31) Includes some cases where the application has been refused on substantive grounds.

Provisional figures

Czech principal asylum applicants removed

Notes:Figures rounded to the nearest five.

Provisional data, subject to change.

Data have been estimated due to data quality issues.

(32) Includes persons departing ''voluntarily'' after enforcement action had been initiated against them, and persons leaving under Assisted Voluntary Return Programmes run by the International Organisation for Migration.

(33) Nationality breakdown of dependants removed is not available.

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on his policy relating to Romanies from the Czech Republic seeking asylum. [75899]

Beverley Hughes: Applications for asylum made by Roma from the Czech Republic are considered on their individual merits, in accordance with our obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention.

The objective country information about the situation for Roma in the Czech Republic shows that asylum claims based on discrimination against Roma are manifestly unfounded. The independent Immigration Appeal Tribunal have also reached this conclusion.

Brussels Station

Mr. Malins: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he has officials placed at Brussels station to ensure that passengers who wish to enter the UK have the correct documentation; and if he will make a statement. [75403]

Beverley Hughes: Discussions are under way to extend juxtaposed controls to the Brussels Eurostar service. In advance of this UK immigration officials arrived at the Gare du Midi in Brussels on 13 October to take part in a series of exercises. Whilst at the station they operate in an advisory capacity to assist and support Belgian officials in checking the documentation of Eurostar passengers travelling to the UK.

Sick Leave

Richard Ottaway: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many Home Office staff have taken (a) periods of sick leave of over one month and (b) early retirement because of work related stress and depression since 1992. [75205]

Beverley Hughes: The Home Office has not retained records on length of sick leave by staff from 1992. But for the period September 2001 to September 2002, records show that the Home Office had 694 staff out of a total of 11,666 on sick leave for more than one month, where one month is defined as 28 working days.

Records are not maintained by the Home Office which enable ill-health retirements to be separately identified as work related. Our records indicate that at 15 March 2001 for the previous 12 months, 327 early retirements were in the mental disorder category. But some mental disorders are not stress related and some stress related sickness manifests itself in a physical condition.

Capital Punishment

Mr. Rosindell: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will undertake a review of his policy on capital punishment. [75101]

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Hilary Benn: No.

Police Officers

Bob Spink: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he is taking to increase the time police officers can spend on the streets rather than dealing with paperwork. [74926]

Mr. Denham: We are committed to tackling the administrative burdens and inefficient working practices that keep officers off the streets. My right hon. Friend the Home Secretary established a Taskforce, under the Chairmanship of Sir David O'Dowd, to identify ways in which forces can free up the time of front line officers. The Taskforce's report was published on 17 September and contained 52 recommendations to increase the presence of police in communities. This is a vital opportunity to change the culture of the police service and bring about a real difference to the everyday lives of officers on the front line.

We have now set up a Steering Group, co-chaired by the Association of Chief Police Officers and the Home Office, to take forward these recommendations. We are working with key stakeholders to reduce bureaucracy in police stations, on the streets and in court.

Rebka Fessenhale

Mr. Swayne: To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about the case of Rebka Fessenhale who is claiming asylum; and if he will make a statement. [75481]

Beverley Hughes: The Home Office received representations from sources including the hon. Member and Ms Fessenhale's representatives in relation to her case.

Ms Fessenhale's appeal hearing took place on 4 September 2002 and the determination was reserved by the Adjudicator. The outcome of the appeal is now awaited.

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