|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
The Duke of Norfolk: I put my name to this amendment because more and more torture is experienced and takes place in the world. The provision should be spelt out in the body of the Bill. The right reverend Prelate moved the amendment extremely well and I have nothing to add.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: This is an important short debate and I am grateful to the right reverend Prelate for the way in which he moved the amendment. I wish to add two thoughts to what he and the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said. First, victims of torture are often those most likely to fall victim to two of the subsections of Clause 1; that is, they are likely to travel with fraudulent or false documents. If they come from countries so savage that they are willing to use torture for judicial reasons, it is unlikely that they would be able to leave with their documents in proper order. Almost by definition, they are likely to be the most genuine of refugees when they fall short of the provisions of the subsections of Clause 1.
The Lord Bishop of Ripon: I rise to underline the point that behind the amendment is the contrast with the shortness of time allowed under the fast procedure. The noble Baroness gave us an indication of that: a month to first determination and a possible 17 days afterwards. There is a contrast between that shortness of time and the difficulty that people who have been tortured have in expressing experiences that they have been through. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has already made the point, but it came home to me particularly as I was recently reading an account written by one of the hostages in Lebanon. In the preface to his book he mentions the intense difficulty he had in articulating his experiences. If that is true for someone who is well educated and articulate, it is likely to be just as true for someone who is less well educated.
In looking through the briefings, I was struck by an account of a young Tamil who had been tortured. I was struck not least because I know Colombo and Sri Lanka well and was in Colombo last November when Tamils were being rounded up and taken to local police stations. The account describes how a young Tamil was rounded up by the local police in an earlier event. He was detained, kicked, punched; his hands stamped on; his body repeatedly burned with cigarettes; his head frequently smashed against a wall; he was hit with rifle butts and with a PVC pipe filled with something weighty; he was stabbed with bayonets and on some occasions tied to a door and beaten. That is what one means by "torture". That victim's brother bribed the police to free him and he eventually escaped to the UK. His first claim for asylum was refused and it was only after that refusal that medical reports were received. The medical and psychiatric reports brought out the torture to which he had been subjected. Had he been put through the fast-track procedure, time would not have allowed all that to emerge.
Behind the amendment lies the fact that people who are the most likely of all to be returned to situations of immense distress are those who may find it most difficult to articulate their case in the short term and with the fast-track procedure. That is why we press the amendment. I support the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool.
Lord Winston: I wish to add my personal experience to the debate. Sometimes when one sees first-hand accounts of such experiences, they strike a deep chord. This is a crucial amendment. I can think of three people whom I know to be particularly articulate; one is a practising physician and scientist; one a pure scientist
Baroness Seccombe: Members on all sides of the Committee are, I am sure, keen to have a system that welcomes asylum seekers to this country in a sensitive way, particularly those who have suffered or fear torture. It must be a terrible experience. I am sure that that is constantly in the Minister's mind as we go through the Bill. So it was with great sadness that I listened to the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool because I feel that the Government's motives are truly honourable.
Earl Russell: The noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, is right that it is important to have these provisions on the face of the Bill. One reason I believe he is right is that drawing attention to the subject may do something to improve the standard of burden of proof that is at present required by the Home Office. The proper standard of burden of proof is, I understand, that set out in the judgment of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keith, in Siva Kumaran: that the applicant's fear of persecution should be well founded means that there has to be demonstrated a reasonable degree of likelihood that he will be persecuted for a convention reason.
It is well known to the Committee that I do not believe that the Department of Social Security is a soft touch. I believe exactly the opposite. But its requirements on believing an applicant on burden of
Lord Boyd-Carpenter: I hope that the amendment will be given careful consideration. I am not sure whether its drafting is perfect--indeed, I have some doubts as to that. But the important point, as was stated by the noble Duke, the Duke of Norfolk, is that if we accept this amendment or something like it, we insert the word "torture" into the Bill, and thereby draw the attention of those who will have to administer the legislation over the years to the significance of cases of torture. Therefore I hope that, whether or not the Committee decides to accept the amendment as it stands--on which I am more than prepared to listen to the argument of my noble friend the Minister--I hope that she will look very sympathetically indeed upon an amendment that includes the word "torture".
Baroness Rawlings: Several noble Lords have cited tragic situations involving the torture of asylum seekers. We are debating Amendment No. 3, which has two parts. If I understand it correctly, sub-paragraph (b) would allow claims not from those asylum seekers who have suffered torture but from those from countries with a "recently documented record of torture". I wonder why those people are included in Amendment No. 3.
On another point, the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Liverpool inferred that Canada took many more asylum seekers than we do in this country. I suggest that that country is somewhat larger than ours, and that the population is considerably smaller. I wonder whether we should be comparing this country with Canada.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page