I regret that the Government focus on deterrence of people seeking asylum has seen a more punitive philosophy take hold of government policy and I have made my opposition to this approach clear to Government Ministers through correspondence and other Parliamentary channels such as by tabling the following Early Day Motion:

7 January 2003

That this House supports the statement from the Refugee Council, Shelter, Amnesty International UK, Asylum Rights Campaign, CRISIS, JCORE, JCWI, Maternity Alliance, Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture, Migrant Helpline, Oxfam, Refugee Action and Refugee Arrivals Project against the Government's decision to deprive destitute in-country asylum applicants of the right to food and shelter from 8 January 2003; notes that the National Asylum Support Service is only available to people who show they would otherwise be destitute and people who lose this support through the operation of Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 will become destitute; is deeply concerned that Section 55 will affect all in-country applicants who represent two thirds of those applying for asylum; notes that refugees are often unable to claim asylum at ports of entry for the reasons cited by the 1996 Social Security Advisory Committee, including lack of knowledge of the UK asylum process, language difficulties and trauma; further notes this is supported by official figures showing that 65 per cent of all successful claims, including Exceptional Leave to Remain, are made by in-country applicants; regrets that the Government focus on deterrence of people seeking asylum has seen a more punitive philosophy take hold of government policy and notes this has had no long-term effect in reducing numbers of asylum applications but has had a detrimental effect on the well-being of refugees; believes that all asylum applicants should have their cases considered fairly and be treated with dignity.

Topical Issue, week ending 22 March 2002:
Response to the Asylum and Immigration White Paper ‘Secure Borders, Safe Haven’

Lynne Jones MP, March 2002

There are some welcome measures in the Asylum White Paper, Secure Borders, Safe Haven, most notably the replacement of the voucher system by a cash system. I also welcome the sections of the Paper that recognise of the realities of migration in the context of global developments and the need for some economic migration of both skilled and unskilled workers to the UK. There is also a welcome change in tone including the recognition of the economic benefits and cultural diversity which people from other countries bring. However I am concerned that the Paper contains immigration control measures which are at the expense of upholding refugees’ human rights.


Border controls

Our immigration control system should be fair and transparent and should not be based on assumptions about the likely validity of claims prior to processing. Even if it is true that the Government will be "tackling large numbers of unfounded asylum claims" this assumption is not an acceptable basis upon which to design immigration control systems. Our border control systems must not prevent people with a well-founded fear of persecution reaching the UK. I welcome the proposal to establish a bilateral resettlement programme with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the Government’s acceptance that it is often very difficult for those who do have a well-founded fear of persecution to arrive in the UK legally. However, it must be made clear that the resettlement programme will not be used to justify policies that prevent people in fear of persecution, who are not part of the programme, from reaching the UK. The real purpose of the asylum system, to provide a ‘safe haven’ is at odds with much of Chapter 5 and 6 of the White Paper.


Financial Support for people seeking asylum

The scrapping of the voucher system and the stigma that accompanies it is welcome but will be of little help if the proposal to remove financial support (in the form of a subsistence income) from asylum seekers who do not require help with accommodation goes ahead (because they are staying with friends or family). Refugees, including refugee children should have the option to live with family or friends without forfeiting their entitlement to subsistence benefits.

It is also not acceptable that support levels for destitute people seeking asylum should remain 30% below income support levels. The rates of support for people seeking asylum should be increased to full Income Support levels and should include entitlement to all passported benefits. There is no evidence that people are attracted to the UK because of an over generous benefit provision.


Application Registration Cards (ARCs)

ARCs must not be requested in situations where ID is not currently a prerequisite for the provision of services for UK citizens.

I support the Government’s view that the ARC should not be used as a substitute for cash or as an entitlement card, nor that people seeking asylum should be required to produce the card on demand. To ensure that this does not happen in the future, legislative safeguards must be put in place to ensure that any proposals to change the use of ARCs must be subject to full parliamentary scrutiny.

I urge the Government to use the new ARC as a work permit.



I welcome the measures outlined in the paper that recognise the positive contributions that immigrants can make to the UK economy. However, these measures do not go far enough, particularly with regard to the need for unskilled labour. It is disappointing that permission to work procedures have not been reformed to allow people seeking asylum to work from the start of the asylum procedure. I would like to see the Government take proactive measures to help refugees into the legitimate labour market, such as the setting up of a refugee skills database.



I support the response of the Refugee Children’s Consortium to the White Paper. In particular, the Government should withdraw its Reservation to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in respect of nationality, immigration and asylum, on the grounds that all children in the UK must be explicitly guaranteed the same rights.

The views and best interests of an unaccompanied asylum-seeking child should be the key consideration in deciding whether or not they are interviewed about their asylum claim.


Dispersal and National Asylum Support Service (NASS)

I welcome the Government’s commitment to reform the dispersal system, which has failed to deliver quality accommodation and support for asylum seekers dispersed to the regions.

The White Paper provides inadequate detail about how the services provided by NASS will be significantly improved. The White Paper does not spell out how the endemic delays on the part of NASS will be remedied, whilst the provision of financial support for people seeking asylum is still to be administered through existing NASS systems. Concrete proposals for how improvements will be achieved need to be made, for example, including a requirement that people are not left without an income due to failures by NASS to issue relevant paperwork. Clear responsibility must be designated for the ‘move-on’ and integration process for those allowed to stay with a requirement for cross departmental liaison (for example with the Department for Work and Pensions and the Home Office) to ensure seamless support arrangements.

I am also concerned at the failure to recognise the need for NASS to establish local counter services. Without counter services NASS will remain inaccessible to both asylum seekers and advisers. The proposed greater NASS presence in the regions does not include any direct access to NASS for asylum seekers experiencing a problem with the delivery of their support.


Citizenship and nationality

The Government’s aim to strengthen active participation in the democratic process and a sense of belonging to the wider community is welcome. However, this is undermined by a number of proposals in the White Paper particularly in relation to support arrangements and initiatives such as the proposed "Immigration Hotline". This proposal gives official weight to a prejudicial and mistrusting view of refugees and it and the attitudes behind it should be abandoned.

People will only feel that they are able to participate meaningfully in society if they are treated with dignity, respect and with equality in relation to other members of that society.


Detention and the removal of safeguards

I am opposed to the detention of refugees unless there is evidence that they have committed a crime or evidence, sufficient to stand up in court, that they are likely to abscond. Children and their families should not be detained in either removal or detention centres.

I share the concerns of the Refugee Council that the Paper includes proposals for an increase in detention capacity and the increased use of detention for families.

I oppose the removal of safeguards proposed by the Paper, such as automatic statutory bail hearings by the repeal of Part 3 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999. Detention should attract an automatic right to apply for bail.


Legal Advice

The provision of legal advice as an integral part of the induction process for people seeking asylum is not outlined in the White Paper and this needs to be remedied.

The legal status of the declaration that all people who are seeking asylum are required to sign before they leave the induction centre must be clarified, as must its possible use at the removal stage.


Quality decisions and removal of failed applications for asylum

I have serious concerns about the Government’s proposed target to remove 30,000 refugees by Spring 2003 in view of failings in the application process, which have not been tackled. People must only be removed once there is confirmation that they are not in need of protection and that there are no other compelling humanitarian reasons why the person should be allowed to stay. It is essential that the decision making process is demonstrably fair before the removal of people takes place. I am concerned that this is not the case, as the White Paper provides no guarantee that people seeking asylum have legal representation from the outset of their case and the issue of quality initial decisions is not adequately addressed.

I am concerned that the White Paper fails to address the fact that since late 1999 an extraordinarily high proportion of applications are being refused on technical grounds (such as a failure to return the complex Statement of Evidence Form (SEF) within the unreasonably narrow and rigid time limit), without any examination of the merits of the claim. In 2001, 24.5 per cent of all asylum refusals were made on "non-compliance grounds" whilst in the first six months of 1999, only 3.6 per cent of all asylum refusals were made on such grounds. I support Amnesty International’s suggestion that the 10 working days deadline for submitting the SEF should be extended to 20 working days. There is no reason to believe that this would have adverse implications for the administrative efficiency of the Immigration and Nationality Directorate. On the contrary, it would mean that IND caseworkers would not have to waste time reviewing cases refused on non-compliance grounds.

I welcome the Government’s statement in Annex F of the Paper that it is prepared to consider an independent documentation centre to ensure that fair decisions are made. I urge them to establish such a Centre as soon as possible, particularly in the light of the recent attempts to remove asylum seekers to Zimbabwe.


Bias in processing applications for visitor visas

From my constituency casework I am consistently confronted with unfair and biased decisions made by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate with regard to applications for family visits. I would like to see clear Government proposals to prevent the arbitrary and unfair basis upon which such decisions are currently made.


Lynne Jones MP

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