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Baroness Blatch: My Lords, again, let me repeat myself from the question I had earlier. All those sources of information are available to those who are charged with having to make judgments about individual applications.

Medical evidence supporting a claim of torture is always given very careful consideration. I shall return in due course to the specific case referred to a moment ago. Staff receive detailed and comprehensive training in how to interview asylum seekers and on how to assess claims. The training raises awareness of the barriers that genuine refugees may face in describing their experiences to officials. We all know that this is a particularly sensitive area. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other independent bodies contribute to the Asylum Directorate's training. Caseworkers work closely to the United Nations High Commission for Refugees' handbook.

We are anxious that our procedure should attract confidence. That is why we asked officials earlier this year to hold discussions with the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, which was prayed in aid by my noble friend Lord Carr. As a result of that, if the medical foundation asks for an extension of time to enable a medical report to be prepared, we have undertaken to consider that carefully. Such a request will not be refused except at senior executive level and for very good reason.

If the Home Office has concerns about any aspect of a medical foundation report on a case, we will normally discuss the concerns with the foundation before reaching a final decision. The foundation has also been supplied with a contact number in the Immigration Service for detained cases. Caseworkers already have access to the foundation's guidelines for examining victims of torture.

Amendment No. 15 proposes a drafting change to subsection (5)(a) which the government amendment would insert into Clause 1. We have proposed that the exemption should apply if the applicant has been tortured in the country or territory to which he is to be sent. The noble Baroness proposes that we should also include applicants who have been tortured in the country from which they have come. Indeed, I believe it is not an addition but a substitution for those words.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey: My Lords, Amendment No. 15 is an addition to Amendment No. 14. There is no substitution.

Baroness Blatch: I hope I will be able to explain to the noble Baroness why we have difficulties with the amendment. First, the proposed additional words are not very precise. Do they mean the country from which the applicant travelled immediately prior to arriving in the United Kingdom, or are they intended to refer to the applicant's country of origin? If we accepted the proposal in principle, we would want a more precise form of words. Perhaps I may again use Zaire as an

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example. Almost all Zairian applicants come to us through a third safe country. They come to us from Belgium because there is no direct route into the United Kingdom. That is an important point and would need to be clarified.

Secondly, I do not see the logic of exempting a victim of torture if the country where he was tortured is different from the country to which he is to be sent. Let us take, for example, an Indian national who has been working in Iraq and who seeks asylum here on the grounds that he was tortured in that country. He would have a very weak case. We would be likely to refuse his claim on the grounds that we intended to remove him to India where he did not claim to fear persecution. We would wish to certify his claim on the grounds that he was a national of a designated country and that would be a clear case of a manifestly unfounded asylum claim. Again, I can see no reason why we should be prevented from certification because of what happened to that applicant in Iraq.

Perhaps I may respond to one or two of the points that were raised. All noble Lords would agree that the Asylum Directorate has a difficult and painstaking job to do. I believe that the directorate and the adjudicators who hear appeals do it very well. However, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, suggested that the benefit of the doubt should be given even if the evidence does not bear out the claim. If we are to experience proper control, firm and fair, of the system, a policy of not securing evidence to support a claim would prove very difficult indeed.

I was asked specifically about Mr. Igbinidu. The gentleman has failed so far to satisfy the Secretary of State and the special adjudicator that he had a well-founded fear of persecution in Nigeria. He also failed to obtain leave to appeal to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal. Further evidence, including medical reports--I hope that noble Lords and indeed the right reverend Prelate will accept this point--was only received on 12th June. This is new evidence and it has only come to light since 12th June. It has been submitted to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State. He is examining the totality of the evidence in Mr. Igbinidu's case and a decision will be made, we hope as soon as possible.

It is true to say that there has been a great deal of conflicting evidence and I have read most of the literature on the case. It would not be proper for me to discuss the detail of the further evidence today but I can assure the House that if Mr. Igbinidu does not meet the test of qualification under the 1951 convention we will of course, given the weight of the evidence that is now before us, also consider whether there are grounds for exercising discretion to allow him to remain exceptionally. I shall keep the House informed on that point.

I was asked by the noble Baroness, Lady Williams, and others to clarify the scope of torture. I have made clear that the term "torture" can indeed apply to any severe form of physical and indeed psychological abuse deliberately inflicted to cause suffering. I have also made clear that forcible abortion or sterilisation could

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indeed constitute torture and therefore fall within the scope of the exemption proposed in the amendments I have tabled.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, and the noble Viscount, Lord Bledisloe, said that the government amendment did not protect people who had not yet been tortured but would be tortured if they returned to their country of origin or the country where they believed they had been persecuted. If we were satisfied that a person would be tortured if returned to the country of origin and that the torture would constitute persecution for a convention reason, we would grant asylum. If an applicant faced torture but not for a convention reason he would of course be granted exceptional leave to remain.

I hope that the amendments standing in my name will be accepted by the House and that the other amendments will be resisted.

On Question, amendment agreed to.

Baroness Blatch moved Amendment No. 3:

Page 1, line 15, at end insert ("; and
(b) sub-paragraph (5A) below does not apply").

On Question, amendment agreed to.

[Amendment No. 4 had been withdrawn from the Marshalled List.]

Baroness Williams of Crosby moved Amendment No. 4A:

Page 1, line 15, at end insert--
("( ) Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed as applying to--
(a) a person who can show a reasonable claim that he has been the victim of torture in a country in which he is claiming to fear persecution; or
(b) a person who is claiming to fear persecution in a country in which there is a consistent pattern of gross, flagrant or mass violations of human rights, or where the findings of the United Nations Committee against Torture or the United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture suggest the existence of an extensive practice of torture.").

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I shall not detain the House for more than a moment or two. I wish to make a couple of comments which may explain why I feel obliged to take the opinion of the House on this amendment.

I wish to make it plain first of all that the amendment does not give anyone the right to stay in this country. It merely lets them take the longer track which enables them to have time to adduce evidence. Nothing in my amendment--an amendment supported also by others--would give the right to anyone to stay in Britain unless they were able to show the immigration authorities, and if necessary the adjudicator, that they had made out their case.

The point made by the noble Lord, Lord Carr, and the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, that victims of torture are rarely able to get their case together in a matter of days is at the very heart of this amendment. To mention an additional, very moving case, the author of Some Other Rainbow, our own John McCarthy, was detained for many months in Iraq, as noble Lords will recall. He specifically said to Members of this House only

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yesterday that he, as a victim of detention, fear and torture, would have been unable to put his case together in a matter of days. Therefore, the first point I wish to make as strongly as I can is that nothing in Amendment No. 4A would force or oblige the authorities to accept someone who could not make out his case. It merely gives him the right to make that case, and a victim of torture cannot make a case in a matter of days.

The second point I wish to make is that the case of Mr. Igbinidu bears that out precisely. There was earlier evidence about his torture and that was waved aside by Home Office officials, no doubt because they thought it did not carry sufficient credibility. It was only when Mr. Igbinidu's lawyers went to the highest levels of medical practice in this country that evidence was adduced that the Minister has now said she will consider again. It would have taken Mr. Igbinidu weeks to get that additional evidence, which he now has. Under the fast-track procedure there is not the remotest chance that he could have made out a case that he had been tortured, as medical experts of the level of Professor Doll and others now strongly believe to be the case.

The third point I wish to make is that I am sure, in the light of the very helpful response of the Minister to the earlier amendment that was passed by the House, that we are entitled to ask for a similar response to this amendment, for it reflects the will of the House. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for me to press the matter in the hope that the noble Baroness will decide at Third Reading to respond to this amendment, which is concerned with the possibility of future torture, in the same very helpful way as she responded to the amendment addressing the past history of torture. I see no incompatibility between the two. I beg to move.

6.2 p.m.

On Question, Whether the said amendment (No. 4A) shall be agreed to?

Their Lordships divided: Contents, 93; Not-Contents, 117.

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