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What action they are taking together with other governments and international organisations to ensure that the return of refugees and displaced people to Kosovo is genuinely voluntary, co-ordinated with the authorities on the spot, and effectively related to the security situation and to the economic and social capacity to absorb returnees with meaningful prospect of a decent lifestyle; and[HL3802]
What action they are taking together with other governments and international organisations to discourage the return of refugees and displaced people to Kosovo during the winter months.[HL3803]
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Government recognises that the security situation of ethnic minorities such as Roma, Ashkalia and Serbs in Kosovo remains precarious. All asylum applications are considered on their individual merits and returns would not be enforced or encouraged unless it was considered safe to do so. This approach is consistent with United Nations High Commission for Refugees
Returns to Kosovo from this country will be on a phased and managed basis and we encourage other host countries to adopt a similar approach. Every assistance has been provided to those people who wish to return to Kosovo permanently, in the form of two voluntary assisted return programmes. If necessary, we enforce the return of those who, following any appeal, are judged to have no humanitarian or protection reasons for needing to remain longer in the United Kingdom. Such returns will take account of all the circumstances at the time, including the weather conditions in Kosovo. Arrangements have been set up to inform the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in advance of Kosovans being forcibly returned to Kosovo.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: I should emphasise that Roma within the United Kingdom already receive the protection that current legislation provides. The Race Relations Act 1976 makes it unlawful for anyone to discriminate against another on racial grounds. A Bill currently before Parliament will amend the 1976 Act by extending it to the functions of public authorities not currently covered by the Act, including the police service, and will put a statutory duty on public authorities to promote racial equality.
It is also an offence to incite racial hatred against the Roma community by virtue of Part III of the Public Order Act 1986. And racist violence and harassment towards members of the Roma community falls under the new racially aggravated offences in the Crime and Disorder Act 1998.
The Government are investing £14 million each year through the Standards Fund to promote the access, regular attendance and higher levels of achievement of Roma pupils. And legal requirements have been placed on schools with regard to the admission procedures for Roma children. There has also been investment in the production of books and learning materials which portray the Roma as a positive and
The Government also announced that they would be making available over the next three years £17 million to help local authorities to improve and refurbish a limited number of existing Gypsy and Traveller sites. Details of the scheme will be published later this Autumn.
The United Nations and Council of Europe have become increasingly concerned at the problem of discrimination against the Roma community in Central and Eastern Europe. We are committed to ensuring that this issue is properly addressed at the World Conference on Racism in South Africa next year.
There is also a substantial programme of work run by the Council of Europe to address this problem, which the United Kingdom Government has actively supported. We have provided funding for projects in the Czech Republic and Slovakia. The Department for International Development is involved in a number of programmes aimed at encouraging central and local governments to address the needs of Roma communities, and the Home Office is in the process of arranging a major programme of race awareness training for police in the Czech Republic.
Lord Bassam of Brighton: The Home Detention Curfew (HDC) scheme was introduced on January 28 1999. Prisoners serving sentences of more than three months, and less than four years, are eligible to apply for HDC.
In order to be released under the HDC scheme, the prisoner must have a suitable address to return to and in which the electronic monitoring device can be installed. In addition, prisoners are subject to a rigorous risk assessment which looks at their suitability for release on HDC, including the risk of reoffending. Only about 30 per cent of eligible offenders have been placed on HDC to date.
|Year||Offences Recorded||Offences Cleared Up|
The change in counting rules for recorded crime on 1 April 1998 had a minimal effect on the number of burglaries recorded. There was a change in counting rules for clear-ups on 1 April 1999 which introduced more precise and rigorous criteria for detecting crimes, including no longer counting most detections resulting from interviewing convicted prisoners. This resulted in a fall in the number of recorded clear-ups as about a third of the clear-ups in 1998-99, for example, were as a result of interviews of convicted prisoners.
3 Oct 2000 : Column WA215
3 Oct 2000 : Column WA216
Whether any Home Office functions in the field of criminal justice have been devolved to the National Assembly for Wales or to the Scottish Parliament.[HL3843]
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3 Oct 2000 : Column WA215Home Office remains responsible for criminal justice in England and Wales. Before devolution, the Scottish Office had lead responsibility for criminal justice in Scotland and details of the matters for which the devolved administrations in Scotland and Wales are now responsible can be found in the Scotland Act 1998, the Government of Wales Act 1998 and Transfer of Functions Orders made under those Acts.
3 Oct 2000 : Column WA216The effects of the devolution legislation in Scotland and Wales are summarised in Devolution Guidance Note 11: Ministerial Accountability under Devolution, the publication of which was announced by my noble and learned friend the Lord Chancellor in answer to a Question on 27 July 2000, Official Report, col. WA 73. A copy was placed in the Library and the text may also be viewed on the Cabinet Office website, www.cabinet-office.gov.uk, under The Government Machine.