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This group includes also a series of amendments to Schedule 13. Anybody who glances at the series of amendments in the name of the Minister under that schedule, will realise the purport and the great significance for individuals of what we are now discussing. In that set of amendments there are references to the rights of immigration officers to detain people who break the conditions attached to their leave or their right to remain. In many cases that constitutes a criminal offence.
When looking at matters concerning the degree of seriousness that constitute criminality, which in many cases would bar somebody from seeking to try to re-enter this country or enter any other country that could offer them safe refuge, we are looking at issues that concern imprisonment and matters of that kind. Something that becomes very clear when one visits detention centres, as my noble friend Lord Dholakia and I have done on more than one occasion, is how totally confused many of the inmates are in such places. They are confused because they do not understand the language; because they have no concept of their rights under the law; and because they are uncertain of the system in this country. In addition, many are desperately traumatised, unsure of their position and often full of apprehension.
The laws are so complicated that most of us in this Chamber find them difficult to follow. With regard to the access to information point, my noble friend Lord Avebury has just been to the Printed Paper Office to try to get hold of a copy of HC 395, and found that it is not available. So the information we hoped to have is currently not available. How much more true is that for somebody who is a refugee seeking asylum? At the
In that situation, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, suggested, it is critical that they should have a full statement as to what their rights are; what are their rights of appeal; how they might contact those who can help them and so forth. Without that we are in effect disempowering them, and they are people who perhaps more than any other group in the world need to be empowered.
But it is more than that. If we accept the reasonable plea on the part of the Minister to accept the good faith of the Home Office, it can only be on the basis that those with whom we are dealing have at least some share in the information that affects their future destiny. For example, the Home Office has our support--as the Minister knows--in terms of trying to stop what one might describe as "rogue lawyers" battling on with the desperate plight of refugees and asylum seekers. But if the asylum seeker has no ability to consider his position, he is a walking victim for the services of those who allege that they can help him. He is not even in a position to make a judgment about his rights and access to appeals.
I strongly underline, therefore, not only in the case of new information technology which we would welcome, but also in the case of existing structures, that we need a much fuller statement than we have at present of the situation that affects the individuals concerned. Finally, in the event that there is no longer access in writing in the future if we move towards a heavily computerised system--I understand that the Home Office may feel twice bitten on that point--can the Minister assure us as to the means to be used to make the asylum seeker fully aware of his rights and obligations so that he can avoid committing a criminal offence that he may never have intended, but which may be the result of ignorance?
The Earl of Sandwich: Perhaps I may briefly follow the noble Baroness. It is confusing in Committee to know under which heading to flag up any specific concern. My concern is that the pre-entry controls which come under this clause, such as a visa regime, can militate against torture victims.
It is worth saying at this point that the White Paper categorically refers to the Government's commitment to help torture victims and to see the whole Bill from their point of view--Sections 9.1 and 9.8. But a lot of evidence has gone through the special standing committee from organisations like Asylum Aid, the Refugee Legal Centre and the Medical Foundation, which indicates that evidence of torture is routinely discounted. There is an anxiety about pre-entry control
Lord Williams of Mostyn: This is a large grouping and it may be helpful for me to recite the amendments to be taken together: Amendments Nos. 5 to 8, as the noble Lord, Lord Cope of Berkeley, indicated, and then Amendments Nos. 212 to 216, 218 and 219.
The effect of Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 is to insert into new Sections 3A and 3B respectively the same requirements for the person to be given notice of the duration and conditions of any leave given or reasons for refusal and the right of appeal. I understand and sympathise with that intention. Our advice is that the amendments are not necessary because it is inconceivable that the powers could be exercised in a way which resulted in these matters not being communicated.
As regards giving a person notice of reasons for refusal and the rights of appeal against that, the 1971 Act already makes provision which is carried forward in this Bill. Section 18(1) of the 1971 Act provides that,
However, as Clause 2(2) makes clear, the order-making power which it seeks to create is intended to go wider than that. In particular, under Clause 2(2)(c), it is intended that we should be able to make provision for leave to remain in some circumstances,
Amendment No. 6 would insert an unnecessary and unhelpful constriction upon the order-making power and in consequence upon the extent to which we could adapt the immigration control to make it more flexible, responsive and efficient. Subsection (6) of the new Section 3B inserted by Clause 2 provides that any order made under the provisions of Clause 2 is subject to an affirmative resolution, and therefore I invite the Committee to resist that amendment.
Subsection (2)(b) of the new Section 3B inserted in the 1971 Act by Clause 2 enables an order under subsection (1) to provide for the imposition of conditions. That is linked with subsection (2)(a), which provides for the order to specify the form or manner in which leave may be given, refused or varied. We anticipate adopting new technology, so it would have to be a condition of the grant, refusal or variation of leave in such circumstances that the person concerned conforms to the requirements imposed by technology--for example, that they swipe their smartcard at the immigration control or present themselves in the way required for the operation of a control using biometric parameters.
As to the government amendments to Schedules 13 and 15, paragraph 26(1) of Schedule 2 to the Immigration Act 1971 requires carriers to have the approval of the Secretary of State before they may disembark certain categories of passengers at a port
Without the amendment to paragraph 26(1), carriers would be entitled to disembark passengers benefiting from the flexibility provisions of new Section 3A at any port in the United Kingdom without the approval of the Secretary of State. Such passengers would not be examined by an immigration officer, as the Immigration Service would be unaware of their arrival. The amendment will allow examination of such passengers for the purpose of establishing whether a change of circumstances has removed the basis of their leave to enter. Amendment No. 219 to Schedule 15 is consequential.
It may be appropriate in some circumstances for the Secretary of State to provide for exemption from the requirements of paragraph 26(1) in relation to certain categories of passenger. Sub-paragraph 1A provides an order-making power that will enable the Secretary of State to make such an exemption subject to the negative resolution procedure.
The 1971 Act makes provision in Schedule 2 for persons who are delayed for further questioning on arrival under paragraph 2 of that schedule to be detained--or alternatively, given temporary admission or bail if the further inquiries cannot be completed quickly. The vast majority of persons in that situation are granted temporary admission.
We have made new provision in the Bill for the Secretary of State to provide by order for certain categories of person to be given leave to enter in advance of arriving at UK immigration control. There is provision for an order to be made providing for leave to enter or remain not to lapse on embarkation. Persons who benefit from those provisions will not require further leave to enter from an immigration officer on arrival and any checks conducted will be to establish that the person presenting the document is the rightful holder.
There may be some occasions where an immigration officer sees a need to examine such persons in more depth--for instance, where the leave to enter may have been obtained by deception. Paragraph 51 of Schedule 13 to the Bill accordingly introduces a new sub-paragraph 2A into Schedule 2 and provides for leave already obtained to be suspended while any further inquiries are made.
As with further inquiries conducted under the current paragraph 2 of Schedule 2, there will be occasion when those dealt with under Schedule 2A cannot be completed quickly--for instance, when the visa officer abroad has to be contacted outside office hours. Where that is necessary, we want to provide the immigration officer with the same powers as he has in paragraph 2 for further examination cases, so that he can grant temporary admission, bail or detain pending the conclusion.
Paragraph 24(1)(a) of Schedule 2 provides that persons subject to examination under paragraph 2 of Schedule 2 who abscond from temporary admission are to be treated as though their examination has been concluded. It also provides an exemption from paragraph 6 of Schedule 2, which requires that a notice of refusal must be served within 24 hours of the conclusion of the examination. It is right to extend those provisions to persons subject to examination under new sub-paragraph 2A who abscond.
Baroness Williams of Crosby: Before the Minister sits down, he told the Committee in relation to Amendments Nos. 5 and 8 that people were informed of the duration, conditions and so on of the leave granted--or in the case of the right to remain, of the conditions attached. Given the extreme risk to which persons might be exposed if they misunderstood the leave conditions--which could involve a criminal act in the eyes of the state--is the Minister absolutely satisfied that at present, asylum seekers, whether in detention or elsewhere, are fully aware of the conditions attached to any leave granted or any rights of appeal that they may have?
I am bound to repeat the experience of many noble Lords who have been closely involved in the work of non-governmental organisations for refugees and asylum seekers. A large number of them are completely confused about refugees' rights, the conditions attached to leave and so on. Will the Minister consider--to avoid detention, imprisonment, deportation and the like--whether he is totally satisfied with the official advice that he has received? Have any representations been made to him about the many cases that appear to be in conflict with that professional advice?
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