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.

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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

No, it was not; I am making that up, but I think someone asked it. As a signatory to the 1951 UN refugee convention and the ECHR, we are committed to continuing to fulfil our responsibility. The UK is part of a number of EU readmission agreements with third countries; we are working to replace a number of them with bilateral agreements.

I think this goes to the point made by the noble Baroness, Lady Lister. Our attitude is not changing towards asylum seekers because of Brexit. She will know, because I have said it before, that in 2017, the UK received the fifth highest number of asylum claims in the EU, and since 2016, we have accepted more Dublin transfers than we have returned, as I referred to earlier. In the year ending June 2017, we resettled more than 16,000 refugees from outside the EU, more than any other EU member state and more than a fifth of all resettlement to the EU. We can also be proud of our leading role in supporting children affected by the migration crisis. Since the start of 2010, the UK has granted more than 51,000 children resettlement, refugee status or alternative forms of protection.

The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, definitely asked about admissibility, and I think the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, referred to it as well. We have always believed that people should be prevented from making claims in more than one country and on multiple occasions. Asylum should always be claimed in the first country that a migrant reaches, as the noble Baroness said. It is vital that our new system does not encourage asylum-seekers who have already reached a safe country to choose to move elsewhere, so we will continue to assess each asylum claim on its individual merits, as set out in the Home Secretary’s Statement to the House on 7 January.

If an individual has travelled through a safe third country and failed to claim asylum, that will be taken into account in assessing the credibility of their claim. This is a widely held principle accepted by the UNHCR, and it is important to send a clear message to smugglers and traffickers and discourage secondary movements. The standards for protection and assistance will in no way be diminished by the UK’s exit from the EU.

On returning asylum-seekers, the UK is attempting to negotiate an ongoing EU-UK readmission agreement which will replace the current Dublin return capability, and this would ideally be underpinned by a biometric system like Eurodac, although clearly it will not be identical to Eurodac. Inadmissibility rules are domestic law and will still be in place regardless of whether the UK leaves the EU.

Finally, the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, asked why we are using an SI, not the Bill, to legislate. It is important to ensure that the statute book is operable on exit date, especially in a no-deal scenario. As the Bill has just completed its Committee stage in the Commons, we do not expect it to make it in here by 29 March. With that, I hope that I have answered all the questions and I commend the Motion.

Motion agreed.