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
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 Governments 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 Governments 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 Childrens 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 Governments commitment to reform the dispersal system, which has
failed to deliver quality accommodation and support for asylum seekers dispersed to the
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
Citizenship and nationality
The Governments 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
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
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.
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 Governments 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 Internationals 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
I welcome the Governments 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