Skip to main content


Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans are being made to reduce the percentage of refugees entering Europe who ultimately settle in the United Kingdom over the next decade. [111299]

The Government are working on a number of measures to reduce the numbers of spontaneous arrivals of people seeking asylum in Europe and to address the problem of secondary movements of asylum seekers within the EU.Domestically, the measures in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 will deter and prevent people who do not need international protection but lodge asylum applications in order to circumvent immigration controls, from entering the UK.Together with our European partners, the Government is active in numerous joint projects and operations to strengthen the EUs external borders. Stronger EU borders will have a significant impact on the numbers of illegal immigrants arriving in the UK. The first round of operations is currently being evaluated in order to set priorities for future action.The Government has also worked to secure a more effective mechanism to replace the Dublin Convention, determining which Member State is responsible for considering an asylum application lodged in one of the Member States of the EU. The Dublin II Regulation will enter into force in September this year. The Eurodac fingerprint database is now operational, and will provide much better evidence, to support the determination of responsibility. Together, the Dublin II regulation and the Eurodac system will enable the UK to effect the return of a greater number of asylum seekers to the Member State most responsible for their presence on EU territory.The UK has been active in negotiations to put in place minimum standards for reception conditions for asylum seekers, for asylum procedures and for qualification as a refugee across the EU. The proposed Qualification Directive, for example, will result in a more consistent interpretation of the definition of a refugee and ensure that each Member State accords refugees comparable rights and benefits. This should discourage those in genuine need of international protection from asylum shopping. The reduction of both the real and the perceived advantages of applying in certain Member States over others should deter secondary movements of asylum applicants within the EU.

In the longer term, we believe that our proposals for zones of protection will make a significant contribution to better international management of refugees and asylum-seekers. These ideas are now being discussed with other Member States, the European Commission and United Nation High Commission for Refugees and we are encouraged by the support we have received to date. These zones are designed to improve the quality and availability of protection for refugees who need it, while ensuring we strengthen the management of our borders and can have proper control of who comes into the UK.