Examination of Witnesses (Questions 275
WEDNESDAY 3 FEBRUARY 1999
and MS GAIL
275. Good afternoon, Mr Best, and your colleagues.
We are very grateful to you for coming to give evidence on a rather
complicated subject, which we have been wrestling for some time.
I am sorry that our Chairman, Lord Wallace, cannot be here today,
so he has asked me to take the Chair in his absence. Is there
anything you would like to say to introduce yourselves?
(Mr Best) Yes, my Lord Chairman. May I, first
of all, thank you and the Committee very much for giving us the
privilege to give evidence to you. We will obviously assist you
as best we can. May I also express a willingness that should in
the future anything else arise on immigration or asylum matters,
which obviously is our particular expertise, and in which you
might find it helpful for us to come and give evidence on, we
shall be very willing to do so. May I, first of all, introduce
my colleagues: Ms Gail Elliman, who sits on my left, and Mr Richard
Mckee, who is on my right. All three of us are members of the
Bar. I do not practise. As a Chief Executive I run the organisation.
Both my colleagues do practise and have extensive experience in
practising not just before adjudicators but also before the Immigration
Appeal Tribunal, which is the immediate Court of Appeal on a point
of law from adjudicators. That is their present role in the Tribunal
Unit. May I say that the Clerk has been good enough to let us
have sight of the evidence which has been given to you already.
We have read that (somewhat cursorily, I fear because of the time
element), but in having read it I hope very much that we will
not unnecessarily duplicate what you have heard already; and we
will try to amplify and supplement that evidence rather than just
going over what you have heard. It was most helpful to have that.
There are one or two things which I may say, my Lord Chairman,
to start with, that are matters which if there is time at the
end after we have gone through the questions, (if that is your
wish of proceeding in that way), we might just like to mention
as areas that particularly cause us concern in our day-to-day
role. The particular concerns are as follows: first of all, third
country nationals and their position within the Schengen Amsterdam
environment. Secondly, the position of Commonwealth countries'
citizens, where obviously there are particular concessions and
treatment for Commonwealth citizens, which are exercised by the
British Government in immigration control. This presumably would
not necessarily be the case because of the lack of historical
nexus between those countries and other countries of the European
Union. Thirdly, the way in which immigration policies can endanger
race relations and engender discrimination against minorities.
Fourthly, the fact that emphasis on Schengen is very much in the
detection of international crime and the identification of undesirables,
and the effect that has on the perception of those who wish to
enter the Schengen area, the fortress type policy of exclusion.
This is a point which is also made by the Migrants Forum, which
has over 180 member associations and claims to represent 13 million
migrants. The problems of EU enlargement, I believe, does loom
large in this whole consideration. Also, how common mechanisms
on immigration control can be reconciled, if at all, with EU countries
maintaining different immigration rules and categories of entrants.
Those who were able to listen to the news this morning might say
that Mr Ocalan situation rather highlighted that situation today.
As I say, if there is time to deal with those matters at the conclusion,
then we will be very happy to, if your wish was that we should
amplify those. Would it be helpful, my Lord Chairman, if I said
just a little bit about the Immigration Advisory Service, the
background? I appreciate that one of your Members knows us very
well indeed but perhaps not all are quite so familiar. We are
a successor organisation to the United Kingdom Immigrants Advisory
Service, with the acronym of UKIAS, which was set up in 1970 under
the 1969 Act, which was then consolidated into the 1971 Immigration
Act. Effectively, the organisation was set up to assist those
with rights of appeal under the new appellate process, the system
which has been set up following the Wilson Recommendations. Section
23 of the 1971 Act enables the Secretary of State for the Home
Department to make grants to voluntary organisations to assist
those persons with rights of appeal, and we receive our Home Office
grant in aid under that provision of the 1971 Act. In the early
1990s, the Government then published its Bill, which was later
to become the Asylum and Immigration Appeals Act of 1993. The
UKIAS Refugee Unit became a separate organisation, which exists
today but is called the Refugee Legal Centre. This is based only
in London and deals only with asylum. UKIAS was reconstituted
into IAS, doing both immigration and asylum work. Lord Dholakia
knows that very well. Indeed, he was involved in it at that time.
The IAS and the RLC are the only two organisations being funded
by the Home Office under section 23. It is very much a sign of
the original organisation. We are a charity, a company limited
by guarantee, with seven regional offices which includes Scotland,
over 80 staff, and about half of those are lawyers or experienced
immigration advocates. We run peripatetic surgeries away from
the regional offices. We regularly visit all immigration detention
centres. We deal with in excess of 5,000 immigration and asylum
appeals every year. In addition, some 30,000 enquiries by way
of personal visit, letters from home and abroad, and by telephone.
We also have a 24-hour help-line service. Through the Stationery
Office we publish two major regular publications on immigration
law. One is the quarterly Immigration Law Digest and the other
is the fortnightly Case Law Up-date, which are widely readnot
least by adjudicatorsas they are a useful synopsis on the
latest legal decisions in what is a very rapidly evolving part
of the law. Our mission statement states that we exist to provide
the best possible free, independent and confidential advice, assistance
and representation to persons subject to immigration control,
without prejudice or discrimination of any kind and in which the
interests and welfare of the client are paramount. Now, although
our Home Office grant is to assist those with rights of appeal,
we also assist those who are financially eligible for the Legal
Aid Green Form Scheme on any aspect of immigration or asylum or
nationality law. We have an Immigration Solicitors Unit, which
takes cases to judicial review and to the Court of Appeal and
beyond. We undertake training programmes for the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office entry clearance officers' courses, Citizens Advice Bureaux,
Racial Equality Councils, Probation Service, and other bodies.
We have an annual conference for the general public at which the
Immigration Minister always speaks. We are having a one-day conference
in Westminster on the new Bill, (which we are anticipating will
be published next week), on Thursday, 4 March, and we are indeed
consulted by Government on immigration and asylum issues. May
I finally indicate the way in which cases come to us. First of
alland this represents the majority of those appeals which
come to usthe refusals from entry clearance officers from
British Embassies and High Commissions overseas. We are named
on the refusal notice as an organisation which can give free advice
and representation. Secondly, the refusal of leave to enter at
ports of entry, where there is a right of appeal which exists
for those who are refused such entry. Thirdly, refusal of variation
of leave for those already in the United Kingdom who wish to change
their status in some way. Fourthly, asylum appeals, which are
increasingly representing numerically a large part of our work.
Probably about 50 per cent now of all our new appeals and instructions
are asylum ones. Finally, deportation appeals. I am sorry that
was a rather rapid fire start, but I hope that as succinctly as
I can I have given you an overview.
276. I do not know whether other Members
will want to take up any of the points you have mentioned. I,
myself, would like to raise one. At the beginning of your remarks
you pinpointed the area of difficulty, which is the Commonwealth
connection and how that would work in Schengen. Could you say
a little bit more about that.
(Mr Mckee) My Lord Chairman, at the moment, under
our British immigration rules, Commonwealth citizens still enjoy
certain privileges which are denied to citizens of other countries.
For instance, there is a scheme whereby young Commonwealth citizens
below the age of 28 can come to this country for what is called
a working holiday. They can stay here for two years, work part-time,
and see the country. There are other privileges, if you like,
in that traditionally Commonwealth citizens have not been subject
to visa requirements. That they did not need visas to come to
this country as tourists or students. This has changed in recent
years with the increasing number of asylum seekers from certain
Commonwealth countries. Visa restrictions have been imposed upon
those countries, so that anyone who wants to come here has to
get a visa before travelling. This has been recently extended
by Britain adopting the common visa list with the rest of the
European Union. This embraces countries like Mauritius and Guyana,
which have never produced many asylum seekers and for which there
is no reason to impose visa controls for that cause. Nevertheless,
they now do need visas to travel here. Now our concern is that
if we merge further our immigration rules and policy into a common
European framework, that there will no longer be room for any
special treatment of Commonwealth citizens. They will all be third
country nationals treated like anyone else.
277. Take the example of the working holiday
rule. Would it not be possible for a person coming, say, from
Australiaa lot of those people come to usthat they
would have to get a stamp in their passport, a visa stamp in effect,
explaining what they do. That would permit them to enter this
country and presumably would give them freedom of travel in a
Schengen area as well.
(Mr Mckee) It depends on the status, my Lord Chairman.
If you get a Schengen visa under the current arrangements, this
entitles you to travel around the Schengen area for three months
but only as a tourist, not in order to work; whereas the Commonwealth
citizens who come here on a working holiday visa are, of course,
entitled to work in the United Kingdom.
278. But at the moment we are outside Schengen
and these people can still come here. If they want to travel to
France while they are in Europe, they will have to get a French
travel permit or a Schengen travel permit.
(Mr Mckee) Indeed.
279. If we joined Schengen, the situation
would be easier, would it not?
(Mr Mckee) That would depend. Certainly if the
visa entitled them just to travel as a tourist throughout Western
Europe, and if that is all they wanted to do in Western Europe,
if it was made clear they could only work in the United Kingdom
But that is an example of the kind of complications which could
arise, because we have our own immigration categories which do
not mirror those of Continental countries. Therefore, there would
be a problem amongst those.
280. But we are talking about a problem,
not an insuperable obstacle perhaps.
(Mr Best) May I add very briefly. Our concern
is that if we were to go into Schengen, how far could one reconcile
a common border control regime, with each individual country still
maintaining separate categories of those whom it admits for different
periods of time and everything like that. Our fear is that the
inevitable thrust would be to have a common immigration set of
rules: a common identification of those who could actually come
to any particular country. Therefore, Britain and Commonwealth
countries' citizens are likely to lose out on that because they
rather stand out on a limb at the moment.
281. The pressure for common rules would
(Mr Best) I would have thought inevitable.
282. I wonder if we could look at two aspects
of it. One is that there could be an advantage, as a part of the
Schengen agreement, to be able to influence upon them the need
to set up machinery, such as the Immigration Advisory Service
and an appeal machinery, so that other people could benefit by
it. This is an unique example and nowhere else in Europe do you
have this sort of system. Also, how effective have our controls
been on immigration? I ask this question on the basis of your
own experience. If you could explain the number of cases on which
High Commissioners' offices abroad (or the entry clearance officer)
may have refused a visa, and the decision has actually been turned
down and reversed by the appellate authorities in this country.
Could you give us some information on that.
(Mr Best) May I turn to my colleagues to answer
your second question, but if I may just agree with what you posed
in the first part of your question. Something that this country
can still be proud of is having an organisation like the Immigration
Advisory Service. I believe it is largely incomprehensible to
those who have come from other countries, where such an organisation
does not exist, how it can be that the same Government Department
which refuses people variation of leave, but how it can also fund
an organisation to help those people overturn that very self-same
decision. It does take a little bit of mental gymnastics to get
around that sometimes. Nevertheless, the fact is that we are an
entirely independent organisation. There is no question of the
Home Office seeking to influence us in the way in which we conduct
our cases. We have a good relationship with the Home Office. Very
often most of the unsung victories that we are able to achieve
are without taking somebody through the process of appeal. It
is by way of a written representation to the Home Office, or a
telephone call, and talking the matter through in such a way that
one can get what the client wants without having to go through
the whole appellate process at very considerable public expense.
Again, one of the concerns we have about harmonisation is not
only whether we would be seen to be unique and, therefore, in
a minorityalthough I would hope very much that the aspiration
you expressed would be that we could try to influence other countries
within Schengen that they ought to have organisations such as
ours set upbut the other fear, of course, is whether other
countries would feel able to have the same sort of appellate process
that we have here. I think I can say with confidence that although
we have fought with it from time to time, the concept of the independent
appellate authority is an excellent one. It is entirely separate
from Government. That is something which is very important. It
is not clandestine. All appeals are in the view of the public.
There is no quasi-Governmental review body or anything like that
which hears these appeals. That is something which is very good.
May I pass to my colleagues to deal with the other part which
you referred to.
(Mr Mckee) If I could mention about visa refusals
at British posts overseas. The figures for last year, issued by
the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, show that 5.8 per cent of
all visa applications were refused last year. This sounds a very
small proportion but it rises to between 20 and 30 per cent in
posts on the Indian sub-continent and in west Africa. So there
are certain posts which have a very high refusal rate. Now the
number of cases on which this decision is overturned on appeal,
is actually much higher in appeals against an entry clearance
officer's decision than against a decision of the Home Office
in this country. For instance, in the days of primary purpose,
of which you may have heard, the success rate on primary purpose
appeals was something like 40 per cent; and on visitor appeals,
which the Government intends to reintroduce in the new Bill, the
success rate was something approaching 50 per cent of visitor
refusals. So that is a very significant total.
(Mr Best) Of the ones we dealt with, of course.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill
283. May I, first of all, say that my wife
is a special immigration adjudicator and she can certainly agree
that what is provided by the Immigration Advisory Service is a
first-class service. I think, my Lord Chairman, that we are, in
a way, straying from our main focus, but since we have begun on
the issues raised, I wonder whether I could just say quite shortly,
so that it can be dealt with, why I think that this line of evidence
may be misconceived. The great advantage of belonging to the European
Union, and the great advantage of belonging to the Schengen system,
when seen from a perspective of travellers, people who want to
move from one place to another: obviously there are rights and
freedoms of movement and one of the great purposes of Schengen
is to facilitate, within the Schengen countries, ease of travel.
That must be common ground. Secondly, if Commonwealth citizens
gain entry to this country, as Lord Dholakia has been so indicating,
that gives them advantages (if we were in Schengen) of being able
to take advantage of the Schengen system for travelling elsewhere.
Now, the examples you have given so far of worries and concerns,
seem to me, with respect, to be trivial. The visa requirement
does not seem to me to be a serious obstacle, even if it were
imposed across the whole of the Commonwealth, as it is in general.
The young Commonwealth citizens working holiday, we have no idea
whether an exception could be carved out to retain that, but is
it not right that we are looking at border controls, Schengen,
the opt-out? There are rather more important issues at stake than
these kinds of issues. What really matters is to see whether in
terms of third country nationals or citizens of this countrythird
country nationals coming here, if they are Commonwealth citizens
or notwhether the benefits of belonging to Schengen outweigh
the burdens. That is really what I would like to put to you. This
is because, as I listen to you, it seems to me that you are focusing
on rather small problems and small issues. They are not unimportant
but they are relatively small. Should we not be focusing on the
(Mr Best) If I may so, with respect, these are
not small issues to those whom they affect. You will appreciate
we see it very much from the individual point of view of the clients
who come to us. Of course, Lord Lester is absolutely right, that
once you are within the Schengen type environment, there is free
movement. As a concept that is wonderful and indeed must be highly
beneficial to those who work within it. Our concern rests on the
ability of those to come within that environment. That is why
we mentioned the visa regime. If I may anecdotally say that one
of the things we pressed for very strongly ever since the abolition
of the right of appeal of visitors in the 1993 legislation, was
for its reintroduction, particularly for those with close family
links in this country. The Government has indicated its intention
of putting that back into the Bill for those people. It caused
the most enormous amount of resentment.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: May
I interrupt you. Your grievances are largely with the tightness
of current British immigration policy, which is very tight, and
often causes detriments to would-be migrants. However, we are
not concerned in our enquiry with looking at ways of changing
British immigration policy. What we are concerned with in our
enquiry is the costs and benefits of the United Kingdom belonging
to the Schengen system. Therefore, it is not really within the
main focus of our work to be looking at ways in which you might,
for example, change rights of appeal, give rights of appeal to
visitors, abolish visas for Mauritius, or any of these other matters.
They are all part of a very important agenda but they are not
on our agenda as our main issues.
Chairman: Lord Lester
is quite right to draw our attention to the fact that although
these are interesting questions, we ought really to be focusing
on some of the issues that we have put down before you.
284. How do the French manage this difficulty?
They have a large ex-empire, part of it still substantially under
at least their economic control, and they must have problems very
analogous to the ones we might have with our Commonwealth. It
seems to be dealt with without a great deal of fussat least,
in our national press. How do the French handle it? Their colonial
citizens apparently come and go in a fairly relaxed manner. How
do they manage it within the Schengen context, when we would have
maybe greater difficulty within the same context if we enter?
(Ms Elliman) I am not entirely au fait
with the French system. I would only to say that it is self-evident
that in France and in most other European countries, which have
had some sort of an empire, their relationship with their old
colonial nations is very different from that of the United Kingdom.
I do not think there are the obligations and the links that the
Commonwealth has with the United Kingdom. I cannot put it in any
more of a concrete fashion than that.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Just
to help you. The position is that when the United Kingdom acceded
to the Treaty of Rome, there was a negotiation about the definition
of who would count as a United Kingdom national and who would
not. Now the French position was that in France the d'Outremer,
the French former colonial citizens, were true citizens of France
in the complete sense.
Lord Elibank: Some
of them, from some colonies.
Lord Lester of Herne Hill: Therefore,
those who were complete full French citizens were accepted under
Community law as having full rights to freedom of movement. As
far as the United Kingdom was concerned, the definition was strictly
confined as a result of political negotiation to what were then
called citizens of the United Kingdom and the Colonies with Westminster
Lord Elibank: Yes,
indeed, but the number of French colonies which produced full-blooded
citizens of France, it used to be Algeria, (I do not know whether
it still is), Guadeloupe and Martinique. I can think of no fourth
but that may be my ignorance. The vast mass of French colonial
subjects were not French citizens.
285. There is a fine distinction between
the détente and the d'Outremer. I think there
is free movement between them, the fact being that countries in
Africa which have become independent do not have this. The French
did allow a lot of people from Algeria and Morocco to come into
France and they have created terrific social problems. There is
great resistance to allowing more of them to come in.
(Mr Best) Although I do not purport to have any
expertise in French matters, to make the point which was raised
earlier, my understanding is that some of these territories have
their own circonscriptions and députés
the assemblée nationale and they are actually part
of France. I would answer the point that Lord Elibank made by
saying that it is the nature and extent. The nature of the relationship
is different between France and its former colonies and in Britain
and its former colonies. But also the extent. I do not think France
can number 53 countries as having been former colonies with which
it has a special relationship within the Commonwealth. If I may
answer Lord Lester's point which he made earlier. I would have
no difficulty in accepting without reserve the question of the
benefits of us becoming part of Schengen, if I could be satisfied
that this was not going to affect British immigration policy,
as a way of tightening it up and removing the benefits Mr Mckee
was referring to and which presently exist for Commonwealth citizens.
I believe there is a special relationship that this country has
with other countries in the world which should not lightly be
Lord Lester of Herne Hill
286. Could you identify any other benefits
which might be lost, other than visas and the young Commonwealth
citizens working holidays. This is because my understanding is
that Commonwealth immigration has been so tightly restricted,
that the reality is that there are no other benefits which might
be lost if we were to harmonise our policy, in the respects you
are talking about, with the rest of Europe. Are there any other
detriments which we should worry about?
(Mr Best) I think it goes to the very nature of
the relationship with those countries because there are so many
people who are settled in this country nowvery many of
them now British citizenswho still have relatives, friends,
links with those other countries, and who expect to have a greater
freedom of movement between those countries and here. Hence I
gave the example of the resentment felt at the absence of right
of appeal for visitors, and the welcome we give to the Government's
proposal to include this in the new Bill.
287. You are not suggesting that if we went
into Schengen we would have to abolish the rightwe have
not got a right of appeal, but if we had a right of appeal for
visitorsyou are not suggesting that we would have to abolish
it as the price of going into Schengen?
(Mr Best) I do not know. If I am right in my surmise
which I advanced earlierthat a common set of immigration
rules is the inevitable consequence of moving into the Schengen
conceptthen I do not know if those could be preserved or
not. It is a step into the unknown.
288. I am sure you have looked at the Schengen
arrangements. I cannot see any basis for supposing that harmonisation
of Schengen would compel the abolition of any independent right
of appeal against visitors or anybody else, which was conferred
by a Member State of Schengen.
(Mr Best) It is not Schengen per se. It
is what the Schengen might move towards, which because it comes
within Amsterdam now, there is the question of a harmonisation
of immigration policies. Our concern is that if you harmonise
immigration policies throughout Europe, there are other countries
of Europe which have no historical nexus with those parts of the
world which we do in this country, and are they going to be prepared
to see (certainly what they might regard as concessions) concessions
to citizens of those countries continuing? That is our concern.
289. To put your anxieties in their most
concrete form, if we have a set of harmonised Community rules,
they would be appealable through a Community justice system. Individual
Member States would lose their ultimate control.
(Mr Best) Indeed.
290. That is your anxiety?
(Mr Best) Indeed, my Lord, yes.
291. I would like to ask Mr Best. Am I right
in inferring from the remarks that you and your colleagues have
made that, if in the enormous unlikelihood and entirely hypothetical
state of affairs I was the Home Secretary, and I invited you into
my office to have a chat about whether or not this country should,
in fact, become part of the Schengen system, you would say no?
(Mr Best) No. We would advance to the Home Secretary
the same reservations and concerns which we have advanced to this
sub-Committee. That in concept Schengen is fine because it allows
the free movement of people. We would need to have assurances
about third country nationals, such as I mentioned right at the
very beginning of our evidence to you, but we would also want
to ask the Home Secretary if he could be satisfied that by going
into Schengen, some of the fears that we have advanced are groundless
fears about the loss of certain immigration rules that relate
specifically to citizens of countries, with which we have historical
links and continue to have those historical links. If he was unable
to give an answer in the affirmative to that, we would remain
Baroness Turner of Camden
292. Could I ask something quite different.
What about immigration status? You deal with individual cases
and so on. What controls and checks do you apply now to determine
a person's immigration status? We hear a lot about people who
can come to this country for political reasons, reasons of political
asylum. Then you hear remarks about, "We don't want people
here who are simply economic migrants." Well, much of the
movement of populations in the past was people moving for economic
reasons. How do you assess what is an illegal status and what
is not presently?
(Mr Best) May I say in preface that Baroness Turner
identifies something which reinforces a point I was making earlier.
If one looks at the asylum situation, it is a common international
convention, the 1951 Convention with the 1967 Protocol. However,
it is applied differently within the European Union round. For
example, Germany does not accept non-state agents of persecution.
We and other countries do. It would mean, therefore, that those
claiming asylum in different countries do have a lottery as to
whether they are likely to be granted refugee status or not. If
it is a lottery as to which country you either obtain or fail
to obtain refugee status, free movement is a small compensation
for those who are refused refugee status because they happen to
have applied in Germany rather than the United Kingdom.
293. I am anxious that we should move on
to some of the questions which are in front of us which are quite
relevant, because we do need your opinion on them, so if we may
perhaps return to our agenda. It is a very interesting conversation
and we are grateful for what you have said, but the first question
is about the effectiveness of border controls. Do we have any
idea of how effective we believe the border controls to be in
our particular circumstances? How many people are likely to be
stopped from coming inand rightly stopped?
(Mr Best) I am going to ask Mr Mckee to answer
that but may I commend, if you have not already seen them, two
publications. One is the Immigration Service Ports Directorate
Operating Plan, which gives the figures of the people who
were stopped. This is for the 1997/1998 period. It says: "We
refused entry to about 38,000 people." That is when in the
same year they dealt with about 80 million arriving passengers.
Many of those, of course, will be British citizens coming back
from holiday or whatever. Also, I do not know if you have had
this drawn to your attention. It is now outdated but Entry
into the United Kingdom was a report by the Comptroller and
Auditor General of the National Audit Office.
294. I have not seen this.
(Mr Best) You might find it a very useful publication
to consider because apart from anything else it looks at the efficacy
of border controls. For example, in its introduction it refers
to the fact that the Immigration Service does not systematically
record the movement of all passengers into and out of the United
Kingdom. Therefore, it is impossible to say how many people may
have entered the country illegally or have breached their conditions
of entry. This is an argument for computerisation, such as exists
in other countries, where you literally count individuals in and
out. With modern technology it ought not to be impossible for
this country to do the same.
(Mr Mckee) The figures are there from the Ports
Directorate. 38,000 people were refused leave to enter last year
by immigration officers at ports of entry. I gather this represents
roughly four out of ten people who were actually stopped by immigration
officers and subjected to questioning about their intentions,
so a larger amount of people who were actually
(Mr Best) It is probably about 100,000 people
who were actually stopped, of whom 38,000 were refused entry.
295. How does that compare with the number
of people who are detected after entry?
(Mr Mckee) There are certain legal requirements
which might be imposed upon people. If they gain leave to enterlet
us say they have told an immigration officer they are intending
to enter as visitors and immediately thereafter they enrol as
students or they get marriedthey could be deemed to have
entered illegally by deception and hence they become illegal entrants.
(Mr Best) The figures given in the Home Office
Statistical Bulletin, to which I am sure you have had your
attention drawn, this is for the first half of 1998. Paragraph
30 says: "Some 14,800 illegal entrants, persons who entered
the country by deception or clandestinely, were detected in the
latest 12 months. This was around 400 fewer than in the previous
12 months. The number of illegal entrants removed, including those
who left voluntarily, increased by nearly 700 to 4,600 in the
latest period." It then goes on under "Deportation Action"
in paragraph 31 to say: "Some 4,700 notices of intention
to deport were issued in the latest period, a decrease of over
1,300. The majority of these notices reflected action against
persons under section 3(5)(a) of the Immigration Act 1971 for
breaches of conditions of leave to enter or remain, mainly over-staying
or working when prohibited from so doing."
296. Are a lot of these people your clients,
(Mr Best) Yes, over-stayers. But may I just say
in parenthesis that we are extremely anxious about the proposal
of the Government, in the new Bill, to remove any right of appeal
altogether from over-stayers. Effectively, they would be removed
administratively rather than having any right to challenge the
decision to remove them. We have experience of over-stayers. Some
people, quite frankly, do not know they are over-stayers because
very often negligent advisers or their lawyers have failed to
inform them of the result of decisions from the Home Office, and
for a variety of other reasons because of the complexity of the
immigration rules. Of course, there is the Home Office concession
that so long as somebody has been lawfully in this country for
ten years, then they can reasonably expect to be granted indefinite
leave to remain. However, we are very worried about the removal
of right of appeal for over-stayers, for which we have no means
of telling. Frankly, with respect, I think it needs to be directed
more at the Home Office than ourselves, whether those figures
in the Statistical Bulletin are the thin end of the wedge
or the totality of the problem. We just do not know.
297. You are more worried about the injustice
of the proposal rather than about its practicalities?
(Mr Best) Yes.
298. There is also an interesting question
about the trends of immigration across Europe. How do you see
this developing? Do you have any view in the future of how immigration
is likely to proceed on the European scale?
(Mr Best) The evidence we can give is, I fear,
anecdotal, from assumptions and from taking account of other figures
and information which is available. But there certainly seems
to be an increase in the migration of peoples generally. There
has certainly been a noticeable increase in those seeking to come
to Europe, although I believe that figure has now actually tailed-off
in terms of migration, particularly for reasons of asylu, even
in this country. If one reads the newspapers we are apparently
bearing the brunt. However, as the Home Secretary pointed out
in a letter to The Telegraph only recently and to the House
in the other place, in fact we are fourth on the list. Germany
by far and away tops the list of those asylum seekers coming into
299. The point which particularly interests
me is whether you have any perception of the problems likely to
arise if the enlargement in Central Europe goes ahead. I would
have thought that could give rise to a considerable number of
economic migrants to other Member States. A lot of them will head
(Mr Best) Yes, I think that must be right.
(Ms Elliman) That is a perception but I do not
think we can answer it as any more than a perception. Enlargement
really is probably going to be more of a problem for mainland
Europe than the United Kingdom. This is because we have always
this fact of being an island nation so we have our natural form
of immigration control in terms of the Channel and the North Sea.
As I say, it is only a matter of perception. I was also going
to add in terms of what been said about entrants and illegal immigrants.
You fall into a difficulty of counting the numbers of illegal
entrants. The difficulty is that you ignore the fact that illegality
is no more than a technical legal term for these people and that
the illegal entrants might turn out to be, after a series of appeals,
a legally recognised refugee, something like that. It is a semantic