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Asylum Seekers from Zimbabwe

Lord Lester of Herne Hill asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: We recognise that conditions in Zimbabwe are such that there are individuals who will be able to demonstrate a need for international protection. Where it is found that they meet the definition of a refugee in the 1951 UN Refugee Covention, asylum is granted. There may also be individuals whose circumstances are such that they qualify for leave under our published policies on humanitarian protection or discretionary leave.

If an asylum or human rights application is refused, there will be a right of appeal to the independent appellate authorities against that decision. Should a claim be refused and any appeal be unsuccessful that means that, for that individual, return to Zimbabwe would be safe. Although we are not, in the wider context of the Government's position on Zimbabwe, generally enforcing returns of such individuals at this time, we consider it entirely reasonable to expect them to leave voluntarily. It would not be appropriate in those circumstances to grant them leave to remain in the United Kingdom.

UK Frontiers: Security against Organised Crime and Illegal Immigration

Lord Patten asked Her Majesty's Government:

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The Government's strategy for tackling specifically organised immigration crime is Reflex, the multi-agency forum established in May 2000 which brings together key law enforcement players under the chair of the National Crime Squad. Reflex has funded several successful initiatives since its inception that have contributed to the reduction of criminally-driven immigration to the UK and other EU states. In particular, two projects (Impact 1 and 2) developed the capacity of border guards in Bosnia-Herzegovina and Serbia-Montenegro to identify forged documents, while a third project in Romania saw the establishment of a team focusing effectively on people trafficking and smuggling.

Reflex also funds two immigration crime teams in the UK, bringing together the subject matter expertise of the Immigration Service and the investigative

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capabilities of the National Crime Squad to focus on serious immigration-related crime. A third team is to be established shortly.

Reflex activity in 2003–04 resulted in the disruption of 42 criminal groups and has identified £3 million of assets for confiscation and/or seizure.

The National Criminal Intelligence Service manages an expanding network of Immigration Liaison Officers (currently 12) operating in key overseas posts to work closely with law enforcement agencies in the host country with the aim of tackling illegal migratory flows to the UK.

The UK has developed a network of liaison officers in key posts overseas to build our intelligence picture on organised crime originating outside the UK. We have developed sectoral strategies, for example on drugs and organised immigration crime, which work upstream to take operational action and to achieve disruption as close to source as possible. We continue to work with international partners, and with organisations such as Interpol, Europol and Eurojust to act against organised crime which crosses international borders. The establishment of the recently announced Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) will bring a new focus to bear on reducing the harm caused to the UK and its citizens by all organised crime.

UK Immigration Service operates pre and on-entry controls to regulate entry to the UK. Several key measures have recently been introduced in order to enhance border security. They include:


    the introduction of juxtaposed controls at specific locations overseas by which means the admissibility of passengers is considered and decided prior to embarkation, resulting in improperly documented or those ineligible for entry not being allowed to proceed to the UK;


    the expansion of the Airline Liaison Network overseas, which is designed to give advice and assistance to airlines in relation to the documentation and the prevention of the carriage of inadequately documented passengers to the UK;


    the deployment of freight searching detection equipment in UK ports and overseas to target those who seek to enter the UK clandestinely; and


    an informed visa strategy designed to establish qualification for entry to the UK prior to arrival.

As a result of the deployment of detection technology, enhanced juxtaposed controls and close co-operation with our EU counterparts, port operators and carriers, over 9,000 people were prevented travelling to the UK from France during 2003.

EU Enlargement: Roma Migrants

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they have made any estimates of the number of Roma people who may seek to enter the

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    United Kingdom following the enlargement of the European Union on 1 May 2004; and whether they have made any contingency plans for the reception and accommodation of these immigrants.[HL2423]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The published estimates of numbers likely to travel to the United Kingdom from the new members of the European Union after 1 May do not distinguish between Roma and others.

The Government have not made contingency plans for the reception of Roma or any other migrants from those countries. We have made very clear, particularly through information campaigns in the countries concerned, that those coming to this country from the accession states must be able to support themselves. There will be no special assistance given to them.

Passports

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What charge is made for the replacement of a lost or stolen United Kingdom passport; and whether such charge covers the total cost of replacing the passport there is any element of penalty included in the charge.[HL2426]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: There is no charge levied by the UK Passport Service on people who report their passports lost or stolen other than the fee required to replace the passport. There is no element of penalty in the fee charged for the replacement passport. The Passport Service operates on a net running costs regime and all its costs are recovered through passport fees. Following the introduction, from 8 December 2003, of improved arrangements for reporting lost, stolen and recovered passport arrangements, the Passport Service has conducted an extensive publicity campaign, one of the key themes of which has been to highlight passport holders' responsibilities for the safekeeping of this important document. Also, as part of its annual fee review the Passport Service will be examining whether a differential and higher fee can be charged for replacing a lost and/or stolen document.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether it is desirable that the Registrar of Births and Deaths should inform the Passport Office of deaths in order that any valid passport held by a deceased person can be cancelled; if so, whether legislation is needed to facilitate this; and, if so, whether they expect to introduce such legislation.[HL2427]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: The UK Passport Service has been seeking to establish arrangements to receive routine notification of deaths from the Registar General in England and Wales to enable it to cancel any passport held by a deceased person.

Legislation is required to facilitate access to the death records for this purpose. In January 2002, the Government published the White Paper, Civil

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Registration: Vital Change, which set out plans for greater sharing of registration information across government. The order-making powers of the Regulatory Reform Act 2001 will be used to make changes to the legislation covering access to death registration records. It is expected that the draft order will be presented to Parliament for scrutiny before the Summer Recess.

Lord Marlesford asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What arrangements are in place for the cancellation of the validity of a passport held by a deceased person; how many passports of deceased persons have been returned to the authorities for cancellation in the past 12 months; and how many passports have been cancelled as a consequence of the deceased holders.[HL2428]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: Every passport contains a reminder that it should be returned for cancellation on the death of the holder. On receipt these passports are cancelled. The United Kingdom Passport Service is in discussion with the Office for National Statistics on arrangements to facilitate via local registrars of births, marriages and deaths the return of deceased persons' passports on notification of death.

The figures for passports of deceased persons cancelled in the last 12 months are not immediately available. The Passport Service is currently collating this information and I have asked the Director of Operations to write to the noble Lord with the information as soon as it is available.

Lord Inglewood asked Her Majesty's Government:

    What plans there are for passports issued by member states of the European Union to include biometric detail.[HL2431]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal: A draft regulation presented by the European Commission Document 2004/0039 on 18 February (Council Document 6406/04) will require passports issued by European Union member states to include at least one biometric identifier.


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