MEMBER STATES' OBLIGATION TO TRANSMIT
INFORMATION ON ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AND FACILITATOR NETWORKS
Proposal by the Federal Republic of Germany for the adoption
of a Council Resolution on Member States' obligation to
transmit information on illegal immigration and facilitator
networks in connection with participation in the CIREFI
early warning system.
Draft initiative by the Federal Republic of Germany for the adoption of a Council Decision on Member States' obligation to transmit information on illegal immigration and facilitator networks pursuant to an early warning system.
||(b) Articles 66 and 67(1) EC; consultation; unanimity
|Deposited in Parliament:
||(b) 16 March 2001
|Basis of consideration:
||(a) Minister's letter to Lord Tordoff (undated)
(b) EM of 23 March 2001
|Previous Committee Report:
||HC 28-v (2000-01), paragraph 4 (7 February 2001)
|To be discussed in Council:
||No date set|
||Legally and politically important
(b) Not cleared; further information requested
2.1 This proposal aims to improve an existing
early warning system by making the exchange of information on
illegal immigration and facilitator networks compulsory. It lists
the information that is to be exchanged, and requires Member States
to take any necessary measures and inform other States about these.
It states that the information will relate to non-personal data.
2.2 When we considered document (a) in February,
we found it a confusing proposal. In particular, although it was
framed as a non-binding Resolution it appeared to impose obligations
and requirements on Member States. We asked the Minister of State
at the Home Office (Mrs Barbara Roche) a number of questions,
and kept the document under scrutiny.
2.3 The Minister has now written to Lord
Tordoff addressing some of our questions, as well as others raised
by our sister Committee in the House of Lords. The proposal itself
has been recast as a draft Council Decision, and the Minister
has deposited the new text, (document (b)), together with an Explanatory
Document (b) and the Government's view
2.4 Document (b) replaces document (a),
recasting the proposal as a draft Council Decision rather than
a Resolution, and citing a different legal base. There are no
other major changes. The Minister tells us that the Government
supports initiatives to improve the early warning system, to which
it is committed. However, it would wish to see a more fundamental
review of the system before it could agree to making it compulsory.
She reports that the Commission has circulated a UK note to all
Member States putting forward revised operating guidelines in
an attempt to improve the efficiency of the current system.
2.5 Now that the proposal has been recast
as a draft Decision, the Government will have to decide whether
or not to exercise its opt-in to the measure (under the Protocol
on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland). The Minister
undertakes to let us know the Government's decision, and tells
us that in the meantime the UK will participate in discussions
and will monitor the position of other Member States in relation
both to the proposal, and to the UK's suggested improvements to
the current non-binding arrangements.
The Minister's response to Lord Tordoff
2.6 In her letter to Lord Tordoff, the Minister
addresses two of the three questions we raised. We asked why Ministerial
authorisation under the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000 might
be necessary. She replies:
"our legal advice is that the potential for
discrimination under the Act relates to the use of information
rather than to its exchange. Such discrimination could
arise under Section 19 b of the Race Relations Act 1976, as amended
by Section 1 of the Race Relations (Amendment) Act 2000, were
Immigration Service staff to act on the information by paying
particular attention to certain nationalities or ethnic groups."
2.7 We also asked why no role for the Commission
was identified in the proposal, and whether the Minister was content
with the omission. The Minister tells us that the Resolution which
set up the early warning system
gave the work of collating information to the General Secretariat.
However, she assures us that, once the information has been received,
it is then passed on to the Commission.
2.8 Whatever the merits of the change,
the recasting of this proposal as a Decision at least removes
one of the grounds for confusion. The Minister's reply to two
of our questions also helpfully clarifies matters. Some questions
and loose ends remain, however.
2.9 No explanation is given for the new
legal base for the proposal, and it does not appear to be sufficient
as it stands. We ask the Minister to elucidate.
2.10 The Minister did not answer our
question about what was meant by the possibility of the candidate
countries and Iceland and Norway participating "on an informal
basis". This may be because that Article has now been omitted
from the draft measure. We ask her to confirm that they will not
be able to participate.
2.11 We were pleased to note that the
Minister shared our sister Committee's concerns regarding access
to the asylum processes of Member States. The new text does not,
however, include any provision affirming the importance of not
preventing or impeding access to the asylum determination procedures.
Will the Minister be pressing for the inclusion of such a provision?
2.12 We will hold document (b) under
scrutiny until we have the Minister's response and until we know
whether or not the United Kingdom intends to opt in to the draft
measure. Meanwhile, we clear document (a).
2 (19730) 5001/99; see HC 34-ix (1998-99), paragraph
12 (10 February 1999). Back