My Lords, the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee’s Sub-Committee A has drawn two issues to the special attention of the House. The first is that there are EU specifications for certain documents, notably the uniform format for biometric residence permits for third-country nationals. The Home Office explained to the sub-committee that the EU is in the process of switching from the current design, the switch to be completed by all member states by the end of 2019, but the UK will not issue the new EU design. In addition to the questions raised by the sub-committee as to whether immigration officials conducting exit checks in foreign countries to establish whether someone has the right to enter the UK before they depart will be notified of such a change, and whether confusion will be created by deviating from the standard EU format, would a potential delay to the UK’s departure from the EU for 12 months or more require the UK to adopt the new EU design despite what is contained in this instrument?
The other issue is the withdrawal of the UK not only from the Dublin regulation but from the Eurodac regulation. Currently, under the Dublin regulation, an asylum seeker must seek asylum in the first safe country arrived in. The Eurodac regulation covers the use and operation of the Eurodac biometric database, which notifies participating member states of a match if a person has been fingerprinted as an asylum seeker in connection with an illegal crossing into a country participating in the Dublin regulation. My understanding is that this instrument makes the necessary legislative changes to acknowledge that the UK will no longer be party either to the Dublin regulation or the Eurodac regulation, as the UK will no longer have access to the mechanism for returning asylum seekers to the first country they arrived in; nor will they be able to establish by fingerprints that they sought asylum in another safe country, as the UK will no longer have access to that database. Will the Minister explain the practical implications of the Home Office’s response to the sub- committee that asylum claims may still be deemed inadmissible to the UK if the claimants have already been recognised as a refugee or could have claimed asylum elsewhere? How, in the absence of the Eurodac database, will the UK establish this?
If EU member states are no longer obliged to accept transfers from the UK under the Dublin regulation, what is the Home Office going to do with those asylum seekers? If by some other means the Home Office determines that an asylum seeker could have claimed asylum elsewhere, or has already been recognised as a refugee elsewhere, they are presumably genuine refugees and so cannot be returned to their country of origin. As the UK will no longer be a member of the Dublin regulation, presumably they cannot be transferred to the EU member state where they first sought asylum either. I eagerly await the Minister’s response.