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Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, before the noble Baroness sits down, can she say anything about the case of Mr. Tong? I appreciate that it does not fall fully within the terms of this provision, but it falls within the consideration of close family ties.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, as the noble Baroness appears to know something about Mr. Tong, she will know that he has abused the system in this country. I hope that the noble Baroness is not condoning the harbouring of people who abuse the system. They should ensure that they press their case in the proper way. That person has not done that. I cannot read my note. I shall write to the noble Baroness.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I apologise to the noble Baroness. I know that I am pressing the good will of the noble Baroness. She said that she hoped I was not pressing the case of people who abuse our hospitality. That is a perfectly fair point and I wish to put that on the record. However, the man in question has married and has a child born in this country. We are talking about a period of 27 years. His child is young and common sense might suggest an act of mercy in this case which I would not normally ask for. Two British citizens will be left fatherless and husbandless respectively. I stress that I am talking about a period of many years.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, the noble Baroness hinted at how long this case has been continuing. However, the figure she mentioned is not quite right. I understand this matter has gone on for 17 years. Mr. Tong married recently, and after deportation orders had been made. As the noble Baroness pointed out, the child is young. However, the concept of sanctuary no

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longer exists in law. Mr. Tong cannot expect to benefit from his continued defiance of the law by remaining in the Methodist Church in Cornwall.

Lord Dubs: My Lords, I see no purpose in trying to press the Minister further. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

[Amendments Nos. 28 and 29 not moved.]

Earl Russell moved Amendment No. 30:


Leave out Clause 2.

The noble Earl said: My Lords, this amendment seeks to remove Clause 2 from the Bill. At the same time I ask the House to consider Amendment No. 34--that Clause 3 should also be deleted--which is strictly consequential upon it. The noble Baroness said in response to Amendment No. 26 that it would bring third country removals to a halt. If that is so, third country removals must be brought to a halt for either they are done as part of a co-operative agreement, with undertakings that people will receive those we send to them, or they are manifestly unsafe under international law.

I have been trying for a long time to put across the point that what concerns us here is not whether the country is generally safe, but whether people will be admitted to the process. I have to say to the noble Baroness what the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Guildford once said to her during a lengthy education Bill: it is not that we cannot get her to meet our concern; it is that we cannot get her to accept that this is our concern. It often happens with third country removals to EU countries that the person concerned is not admitted to the process and so their claim is never even considered.

Tonight the noble Baroness spoke dismissively about the Belgian practice of removing people to Zaire. However, one of her adjudicators has stated:


    "It is of course well known that there are close links between Belgium and Zaire ... (there) is sufficient evidence ... to show that it is not safe for (this appellant) to be returned there".
She spoke somewhat dismissively about the case of ex parte Bostam. She argued as if that were an isolated case. However, that was not an isolated case. It arose from a general principle of Belgian law; namely, if you are applying for asylum in Belgium, you must do so within eight working days of arrival, which, of course, those who have been in transit to the UK and then been returned to Belgium very often have not. One of the learned judge's reasons for oversetting the adjudicator's recommendation was that he had not taken into account the evidence before him that the Belgian authorities had wrongly determined applications as manifestly unfounded because the applicants had been returned to Belgium on third country grounds. Mr. Justice Hidden found that removal to Belgium was unsafe because that sort of thing had happened before. It is not a single case. It is a systematic one.

It is also a regular problem in France that anyone returned to France under the third country procedure tends to be found to be an illegal entrant. That happened

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in the recent case of Mr. Ali Iqbal. On 3rd March 1996 he was returned to France under the third country procedure. He was immediately arrested at the Gare du Nord as an illegal immigrant. No attempt was made to investigate his claim. He was not allowed to speak to his lawyer. On the same day he was served with an expulsion order to Pakistan and an order of detention pending expulsion. That is a normal procedure when we send third country removals to France. Some of the features of Mr. Iqbal's case were extreme, but the basic principle of holding such people to be illegal entrants is normal. Under those circumstances I cannot see how a third country removal to France can possibly be regarded as safe unless we have an undertaking in advance.

In the case of Greece, there has been enough trouble for there to be a general UNHCR health warning on the return of third country applicants to Greece. A recent case in Italy also led the UNHCR to give a health warning. An applicant from Sri Lanka was returned by Italy, curiously, to Thailand, which is not a convention signatory and he therefore enjoyed no protection there under the terms of the convention. There are plenty of such cases. All those cases carry the risk of refoulement.

There is English judicial authority for the principle that this billiard-ball refoulement constitutes refoulement under the UN convention and is therefore illegal under international law--and, what is more, under an element of international law which, by the 1993 asylum Act, has been incorporated into British law. So unless we can be certain that the third country will consider the application, removal to a third country severely risks being illegal under international law. Noble Lords will see why I say that unless we can get undertakings from a third country, it is manifestly unsafe. The noble Baroness said that we cannot get undertakings; it will not work. Therefore I say that it is unsafe. I beg to move.

9.45 p.m.

Baroness Williams of Crosby: My Lords, I wish to pursue one matter so that it can be considered when the noble Baroness comes to respond. It concerns how Clause 2 is affected by the amendment the Government conceded on the issue of torture earlier today. Will the Minister tell the House what is the position in relation to those found to have a reasonable claim to have been tortured in a country with regard to their return to a third country other than the one in which they were tortured? I am talking about somebody who has satisfied the terms of the noble Baroness's amendment. How will such a person be treated in respect of being returned to a third country, especially in a situation where that third country has not given an undertaking that the processes will be carried through to their conclusion in that third country?

I mention this matter because of the very considerable evidence from, among others, Judge Tumim, as he then was, on his visit to Campsfield Detention Centre last year, giving clear indications that people who have suffered torture are particularly liable to great stress and trauma if they fear that they will be deported to another country, especially one about which they know nothing.

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Judge Tumim said in his report on Campsfield:


    "The fact is that some detainees appear to be terrified at the prospect of being deported".
In the case of somebody who is about to be deported not to the country from which he came but to a so-called safe third country, that trauma will be very acute. This House has made very plain its special concern for victims of torture. It is our view on this side of the House that in a situation in which refoulement could occur (my noble friend Lord Russell outlined that possibility) in the particular case of a victim of torture it amounts to a kind of additional torture itself. They are then faced with terrible uncertainties and fears about where their future may lie.

Perhaps the Minister would be kind enough, when she responds to this short debate, to tell us how she sees the impact of the first amendment to Clause 1 on Clause 2 with special reference to the sending on to a third country of a victim of torture.

Baroness Blatch: My Lords, perhaps I can begin with the final point. Clause 2 is not affected by the torture amendments. In third country cases we do not consider the substance of the claim; we rely on that country to do so. However, we will not return a person who is medically unfit to travel, so a judgment will be made about the specific medical state of a person who is seeking asylum.

In the Bostam case, Mr. Justice Hidden did not find that the removal to Belgium would be unsafe; only that there were unsatisfactory aspects of the earlier adjudicator's decisions upholding removal to Belgium.

Earl Russell: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. Mr. Justice Hidden found return to be unsafe for that applicant. I have always said that "unsafeness" can only ever be in relation to the specific applicant. There is no such thing as a safe or unsafe country.


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