United States: Immigration Policy - Question

– in the House of Lords at 3:10 pm on 27 February 2017.

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Photo of Baroness Afshar Baroness Afshar Crossbench 3:10, 27 February 2017

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, in the light of the decision by President Trump to limit immigration to the United States, what steps they are taking to secure the rights of Iranian-born British citizens visiting the United States to return to the United Kingdom and not be sent to Iran.

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

My Lords, we gained assurances that measures enacted by President Trump’s executive order of 27 January do not affect British passport holders irrespective of their country of birth or whether they hold another passport. We are closely monitoring any changes and would consider intervening with the relevant authorities if necessary. Standard US policy is that visitors who are denied entry to the US are returned to the country from which they have travelled.

Photo of Baroness Afshar Baroness Afshar Crossbench

I thank the Minister, but what measures have the Government taken to ensure that, at the point of entry into this country, passport controls focus on the legitimate passports of individuals and do not ascribe an assumed identity to visitors in terms of their dress code, assumed nationality or religion?

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

My Lords, with regard to visitors to this country, I can give the noble Baroness that assurance. With regard to the access of visitors to the United States, its guidance says that those same factors should not determine the decision that is made: the decision is made on an equality basis.

Photo of Lord Collins of Highbury Lord Collins of Highbury Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development)

My Lords, I welcome the Minister’s comments, but can she reassure the House that on the executive order that we expect either this week or next week, the department will be prepared to offer proper advice immediately and the Foreign Secretary will not waste any time in seeking urgent clarification, unlike the last time?

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary did seek urgent advice the last time. The difficulty was that there was some confusion in the United States’s systems, as was evident from the changing nature of its travel advice online. Therefore, early engagement by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in this country and by my right honourable friend the Prime Minister meant that we were able to get the earliest advice to British passport holders that they would not be adversely affected.

Photo of Baroness Northover Baroness Northover Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs)

My Lords, can I flag up the astonishing position whereby the noble Baroness, Lady Afshar, who was born in Iran and is a former professor of politics at the University of York and much else besides, might herself be at risk in Iran and not welcome in the United States? Does the Minister agree that we should never go down that road, and that both countries are missing out, potentially, on an absolute treasure?

Photo of Lord McInnes of Kilwinning Lord McInnes of Kilwinning Conservative

My Lords, what steps are Her Majesty’s Government taking to ensure that British Iranian nationals are recognised as such by the Iranian Government?

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

My Lords, that is an extremely important question because of the problems, as we have discussed over the past six to seven months, which ensue when one country does not recognise the validity of dual nationality. Iran is just such a country. We continue to have discussions at ministerial and ambassadorial levels with Iran to try to resolve some of the consequences of its refusal to accept that one can ever revoke one’s own Iranian nationality. Iran is not the only country involved and we continue those negotiations with other countries, too.

Photo of Baroness Hussein-Ece Baroness Hussein-Ece Liberal Democrat

My Lords, what representations is the Foreign Office making to the American embassy on cases such as Mr Miah, the maths teacher born in Swansea who was accompanying his class to go to the United States? It seems that he was blocked in Reykjavik from boarding a plane for no other reason than that he is a Muslim. He was denied entry and then humiliated; he said that he “felt like a criminal”. Are these sorts of cases being monitored and followed up, and what representation is being made about this outrage?

Photo of Baroness Anelay of St Johns Baroness Anelay of St Johns Minister of State

With regard to the particular case of Mr Miah, who was removed in Reykjavik from a flight to New York, he has not been given a reason for the entry refusal by the US authorities. On the wider question, naturally when we were advised by Mr Miah of his position we gave consular assistance in position, in Iceland. More broadly, a really important issue underlies the noble Baroness’s question: namely, that we are not always notified when somebody holding a British passport is denied entry or, indeed, detained upon entry. We can only be sure of knowing about it if they notify us, given that the US does not commonly hold those records and there is no international rule that any country must do so.