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Latin America

Volume 977: debated on Thursday 31 January 1980

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asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department what representations he has received about Government policy regarding entry to the United Kingdom of people from Latin America.

I refer the hon. Member to the reply I gave to a question by the hon. Member for Wolver Hampton, South-East (Mr. Edwards) on 25 January.

Quite apart from the unjustifiably harsh decision to stop Latin American refugees from coming into this country, will the Minister investigate alleged discrimination by immigration officials against people coming from Latin America to this country, even for a short holiday? In particular, will he ensure a fair hearing for the relatives of a constituent of mine, Mr. Max Flores, who were sent home by,immigration officials after spending more than £1,700 on the fare from Chile to Gatwick?

On the first point about the harshness of our decision, I must point out that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, addressing his executive committee in Geneva last October, indicated that there was no longer a continuing need for a resettlement programme for Latin American refugees and that individual cases should be dealt with as they arose. That is now our policy.

The case of Mr. Flores was considered under the old criteria and it did not meet them. If the hon. Member wants any further information I shall write to him about the matter.

A great deal has been made of this question. Can my hon. Friend tell us how many such people have applied for entry to this country recently?

During the four months before the announcement was made, there were 41 applications. Since the announcement was made at the end of October there has been none.

In view of the United Nations report by the special rapporteur, is it not absolute nonsense to say that there is no longer a need for resettlement? Is the Minister aware that the report indicated that oppression continues in Chile and the situation is worse than it was before? Therefore, will he not agree it is absolutely vital that we should assist those refugees who wish to come to this country?

Of course I do not accept that what I have just said is nonsense. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees originally asked us to initiate a programme in 1973 when there was a considerable need. We met that request. He now tells us that there is no need for a continuing programme and we have accepted his advice.

Will the hon. Member assure the House that, in future, cases will be individually looked at by a Minister and not done officially? Will the Home Office publish quarterly numbers of all applications made to come to this country from Latin America, and the numbers of applications agreed to?

I shall consider the second point. On the first point, it sems reasonable that we should treat Latin American refugees on the same basis—that is on a compassionate basis—as refugees from the rest of the world.