In 1984 a total of 8,527 passengers were given temporary admission either pending further examination or after refusal of leave to enter. Of these, 187 or just over 2 per cent absconded.
Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that Tamils fleeing persecution would make as good citizens of this country as the children of the Lithuanians who fled from their country a generation ago?
The matter raised by the hon. Lady is of great importance, but it goes very wide of this question. A short time ago we announced what we think is a fair policy towards Tamils. First, we shall acknowledge and honour our obligations under the United Nations convention on refugees. Secondly, we have said that we shall not send back any Tamil who would suffer severe hardship if returned.
In view of those figures, does the Minister agree that his officials are refusing to let many genuine visitors into this country and putting them in the humiliating position of being detained at airports and having to seek out a Member of Parliament in order to get permission to see their relatives? Does the hon. and learned Gentleman also agree that we should—
I am always willing to oblige, Mr. Speaker. Some might say that the low level of absconding confirms the judgment of immigration officers in granting temporary admission. It is somewhat illogical to argue that, because people have not absconded, they must have qualified for entry as visitors and therefore were wrongly refused entry.
Will the hon. and learned Gentleman confirm that last Tuesday evening, for the first lime, a Tamil who had sought asylum in this country was returned direct to Sri Lanka and that that occurred because of an administrative muddle by Home Office officials? Will the hon. and learned Gentleman now say categorically—