Select Committee on European Union Forty-Ninth Report


REFUGEES—MINIMUM STANDARDS FOR QUALIFICATION AND STATUS (12620/02 and 14643/02)

Letter from Lord Grenfell, Chairman of the Committee, to Lord Filkin CBE Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office

  Thank you for your Explanatory Memorandum of 27 November covering these documents. We have yet to consider them in detail. We have, as you have requested, given priority to those documents likely to be considered at the Justice and Home Affairs this week. However, our attention has been drawn to an article in The Observer, 15 December 2002, Refugees "will be forced to return", and an earlier Statewatch press release (11 December 2002) referring to certain possible changes to the draft Directive. The Observer article refers quite specifically to two documents, of 26 and 27 November, and suggests that changes have been agreed, though that appears to be denied by a Council spokesman. We would be grateful if you could clarify the position. First, what precisely, are the changes contained in the documents dated 26 and 27 November? Second, what is your reaction to the suggestion that the changes are incompatible with Member States' obligations under the Geneva Convention? Third, please confirm that no agreement, under whatever style or title, has been reached or will be reached before Parliament has had the opportunity to scrutinise the documents.

  We propose to defer further consideration of the proposed Directive pending your response to this letter.

19 December 2002

Letter from Lord Filkin, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, to the Chairman

  Thank you for your letter of 19 December in which you asked for a response about the article that appeared in The Observer on 15 December.

  Your letter of 19 December first asks what are the changes contained in the documents referred to by The Observer and dated 26 and 27 November. I can only assume that the first document referred to is Asile 68, which was deposited. The second document is probably a revision of the same document containing the Presidency suggestion that the provisions on revocation, ending of and refusal to renew refugee and subsidiary protection status should apply only after the Directive comes into force. This was produced after discussion at the meeting of the Permanent Representatives Committee on 27 November.

  I do not agree that these changes or indeed any part of the Directive are incompatible with Member States' obligations under the Geneva Convention. I would be happy to comment in more detail on any specific Articles on which you have concerns about compatibility.

  You asked whether the UK had given any form of agreement to any part of the Directive. As I reported in my response to the parliamentary question regarding the outcome of the November JHA Council (Hansard 17 December, Column WA 94), the Council had only a brief discussion of the first 19 Articles of the Qualification Directive. This did not result in any agreement given that scrutiny reservations were maintained on the text, which has now been remitted to the Working Group for further discussion.

17 January 2003


 
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