Clause 39 - Position where asylum claimed

Part of Extradition Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 10:30 am on 14th January 2003.

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Photo of Bob Ainsworth Bob Ainsworth The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 10:30 am, 14th January 2003

The amendments relate to the complex provisions of the Bill that deal with situations in which extradition and asylum meet. It is not a simple subject; strong and basic principles are involved.

Amendment No. 49 would add uncertainty to an already complex clause. It appears to breach the fundamental principles of an individual's rights. Amendment No. 142, on the other hand, would completely reverse our efforts to ensure that the asylum process should not, and cannot, be misused to introduce unnecessary delay to the extradition process.

The clause as drafted provides that no person who has claimed asylum shall be extradited until a decision has been reached on that claim. Amendment No. 49 would wipe out the basic right to seek refuge, and would mean that a person would be extradited regardless, before his asylum claim had been determined.

We are well aware that the asylum system can be abused, and we know that it has been used as a means to delay and frustrate the extradition process. We therefore included provisions to deal with that difficult situation and to address spurious asylum claims and appeals. If it is considered that the claim is unfounded, it can be certified as such by the Secretary of State when he refuses the claim. The effect of that certification will be that the person will be able to appeal against the asylum refusal but extradition can take place. However, the appeal will have to be from abroad and only when the Secretary of State is prepared to state that the claim is clearly unfounded.

I imagine that the hon. Gentleman's intention in tabling the amendment was that the extradition process should not be unduly delayed in the case of a spurious asylum claim, but that is already provided for by the clause. The Bill is drafted to prevent people from using the asylum system to delay extradition

inappropriately. However, it is entirely different, and it would be wholly improper, for us to refuse even to consider representations from a person making an asylum claim before they are extradited, which would be the effect of the amendment.

Liberal Democrat amendment No. 142 would undo our efforts to reach a sensible and constructive solution by erasing the provisions on certification. I have just explained what the provisions do and why they were so drafted. They reflect the approach taken in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. The arguments are well trodden and we do not need to waste the Committee's time repeating them. We can consider asylum appeals and prevent the abuse of the asylum system in inappropriate circumstances through the certification process. When we have decided that that should be done and the person is extradited, we can still listen to the appeal from abroad. That strikes the right balance. It ensures that people's fundamental convention rights are secure, yet it prevents them from abusing the system.