Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019 - Motion to Approve

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 18th March 2019.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development) 6:30 pm, 18th March 2019

I thank all noble Lords who have taken part in the debate. By far the biggest area that noble Lords concentrated on was of course the Dublin regulation. The regulation contains rules to establish the criteria and the mechanisms for determining the member state responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in one of the member states by a third-country national or stateless person and the legal framework for returning and accepting asylum seekers to and from the EU. As I said, the instrument ensures that the statute book will continue to function effectively in a no-deal scenario for asylum and provide transitional arrangements.

In the event of a no-deal scenario, retained EU law becomes deficient, and with respect to asylum, the regulations we use to repeal the Dublin regulation and other common European asylum system measures that we are part of—for example, Eurodac, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, pointed out, and the European Asylum Support Office temporary protection directive—will reflect that we will no longer be part of the acquis. This SI ensures that the statute book will continue to function. However, should the UK leave without a deal, Dublin requests relating to family reunification still pending resolution will continue to be considered under the existing provisions, and that will apply to any take-charge requests that we have received before exit day.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked whether the Dublin regulation will apply in the event of no deal. I will give an example of the numbers we are talking about. Clearly, we will not be a participating state in the Dublin regulation. While this presents a challenge, it also presents in some ways an opportunity to seek new agreements with the EU on asylum which better reflect our position as a third country. Since 2016, we have accepted more Dublin transfers than we have returned to our EU partners. The latest statistics, published in March of this year, show that 209 people were returned to the EU 27 under Dublin in 2018, making up around 5% of the total asylum returns. The Government have committed under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act to seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU that will permit unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to join family members. It would replicate a similar mechanism in the Dublin regulation which would allow children under 18 to join close family members where it is in their best interests.

On returning any individuals under other routes—I think the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, asked me about that—we will always seek to return those who do not require international protection or have the right to be here in accordance with domestic law. We will continue to make returns to countries where appropriate, and on a case-by-case basis.

Continued co-operation on migration issues is in the shared interests of the UK and the EU. We will work to secure a comprehensive returns agreement with the EU to replace our obligations under Dublin once we leave the EU. If unsuccessful, we will look to work bilaterally with EU member states to strengthen our relationships. For example, we will look to build and strengthen our reciprocal agreements with France as set out in the Sandhurst treaty.

The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, talked about family reunification without Dublin, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. We strongly support the principle of family unity, and there are several routes by which families can be reunited safely. The UK’s family reunion policy is generous, and we continue to reunite refugees with their immediate family, including by granting over 26,000 family reunion visas over the last five years. We are considering the options to ensure effective co-operation on family reunification of asylum seekers after exit. Deal or no deal, Dublin requests relating to family reunification still pending resolution will continue to be considered under the existing provisions, and, as I said, this would apply to any take-charge requests that we received before exit day.