Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 3:45 pm on 6th July 2004.

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Photo of Lord Rooker Lord Rooker Minister of State (Regeneration and Regional Development), Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, Minister (Office of the Deputy Prime Minister) (Regeneration and Regional Development) 3:45 pm, 6th July 2004

My Lords, I shall get the latest figure. I am not making a point about the numbers. The point is that it is happening. I merely have a figure for the number of applications for refugee status. In terms of those leaving, if there is an up-to-date figure for the current year, I shall get it. If I cannot obtain it before I sit down, I shall give it in a later debate.

We already promote the assisted returns programme through a variety of means, and have discussions with non-governmental organisations such as the Refugee Council and the International Organisation for Migration. Information is available at reporting centres and in letters sent at various stages of the asylum process. Our view remains that, although it would be safe for failed asylum seekers to return voluntarily to Zimbabwe, in the wider context of the Government's position on Zimbabwe it would be inappropriate to return them forcibly at this time.

We will, of course, assess every case on its individual merits before a decision is made to withdraw support. I emphasise that the Secretary of State will not certify under Clause 9, except where a family is failing to take reasonable steps to leave the UK or place itself in a position where it can do so, and has no reasonable excuse for its failure to do so. That is the current position on Zimbabwe. That is not a Home Office position, or a Foreign Office position. It is the Government position. The departments do not disagree with the policy I have enunciated in answer to this amendment.