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Asylum Seekers

Volume 405: debated on Monday 12 May 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the operation of non-suspensive appeals for safe country asylum applications. [109651]

Under provisions of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 which came into force on 7 November 2002, a claimant whose asylum or human rights claim has been refused and also certified as clearly unfounded may not appeal that refusal until they are outside the United Kingdom. The provisions are applied where the claimant is entitled to reside in one of the 17 countries listed at Section 94(4) of the Act.

Claims from the initial 10 countries have fallen dramatically since the introduction of non-suspensive appeals, by around 85 per cent. compared with October 2002, based on early management information. The process has proved a considerable success.

It is too early to comment upon the impact of the addition on 1 April to this list of Albania, Bulgaria, Jamaica, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, and Serbia and Montenegro. However, early management information indicates that claims from these seven countries have fallen but it is too early to assess the overall impact.

No appeals had been determined as at end December 2002 (the latest date for which published data are available). However, early management information shows that all appeals determined so far have been dismissed or withdrawn.

We have used the established fast track process at the Oakington Reception Centre to decide claims rapidly and remove those whose claims have been refused and certified. The Court of Appeal found that the procedure at Oakington offers claimants a fair opportunity to demonstrate that their case is arguable.

Claimants who are unsuitable for detention at Oakington, for whatever reason, have their claims decided in a non-detained process and, where appropriate, are subject to close contact management.

Information on initial decisions on asylum applications is published quarterly. The next publication will cover the period up to March 2003.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many replies to letters about asylum from the hon. Member for Luton, South have been outstanding for (a) one month, (b) three months, (c) six months, (d) 12 months and (e) more than 12 months; and which cases are involved in each instance. [110662]

There are a total of 14 replies outstanding in response to letters from my hon. Friend on immigration matters. Of these, eight have been outstanding for less than one month; four for less than three months; and two for less than 12 months. This is an unacceptable standard of service and I will write to the hon. Member with details of the cases concerned as soon as possible.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what information his Department (a) collects and (b) publishes on the number of children in asylum seeking families who are detained. [111262]

Information on the numbers, ages and duration of detention of children who are detained as members of families is collected for internal management purposes but is not published.The published quarterly statistics record the number of people held solely under the 1971 Immigration Act at each immigration removal centre, and the number of these who have sought asylum at some stage. Information on the age of detainees is not yet available.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers have gone missing after entering the country since 1 January 2001. [111300]

I regret that the information requested is not available.Some asylum seekers leave the United Kingdom voluntarily; others may remain in the UK illegally. Applicants do not always inform the Immigration Service prior to leaving the UK. We are making substantial improvements in the area of contact management as detailed in the White Paper: Secure Borders, Safe Haven: Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain, paragraph 4.42. A robust new reporting regime is now being put in place.There is currently no official estimate of the number of people illegally present in the UK. Estimating the numbers of those illegally present is difficult because by definition, they fall outside of official statistics and are motivated to remain hidden. However, I have commissioned research into the feasibility of producing a reliable estimate.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many applicants for asylum are resident in the London Borough of Redbridge. [111748]

The information is not available in the form requested.The availability of information on the location of asylum seekers in the United Kingdom is currently linked to the support the asylum seeker receives. Asylum seekers in the United Kingdom either receive support from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS), local authorities or the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP), or are supporting themselves.At the end of December 2002, 25 asylum seekers (including dependents) were being supported in NASS accommodation and 755 asylum seekers (including dependents) were in receipt of subsistence only support in the London Borough of Redbridge

1 .

From the grant claims sent to the Home Office by local authorities, as at the end of December 2002, there were 625 asylum cases (comprising 340 individuals and 285 families) being supported by the London Borough of Redbridge Local Authority1 . Asylum seekers are not necessarily resident in the local authority that supports them due to the voluntary dispersal programme which operated prior to NASS.

No information is held centrally on the location of residence of asylum seekers supported by DWP or who support themselves.

1 Figures have been rounded to the nearest five. These figures exclude cases where support has been ceased.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what discussions his Department has with hospitals in which there are people seeking asylum in the UK who are receiving hospital treatment, with particular reference to those receiving medical treatment for HIV and Aids, before that person is moved to another area of the UK; and if he will make a statement. [112158]

Only asylum seekers requesting that accommodation be provided are considered for dispersal. Dispersal is not automatic and the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) will consider any representations from or on behalf of an asylum seeker that they should not be dispersed. These representations can include requests from a hospital that an asylum seeker should not be dispersed because they are receiving medical treatment. All representations are carefully considered and, in making a decision on whether dispersal is nevertheless appropriate, NASS can take advice from Department of Health officials about availability of treatment in dispersal areas.Asylum seekers receiving medical treatment as an in patient are not considered for dispersal until they have been discharged from hospital.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he next plans to meet Scottish Executive Ministers to discuss the detention of children of asylum seekers in Dungavel Removal Centre. [112784]

I have regular meetings with Scottish Ministers to discuss asylum and immigration issues and am also willing to meet when the need arises. Whilst there is no date set at present for a further meeting, I would be more than happy to arrange one if this is requested or should a need arise.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment has been made of alternatives to the detention of children of asylum seekers. [112785]

Alternatives to detention are considered in every case. Each case, is considered on its merits and the presumption will always be in favour of granting temporary admission or release wherever possible. Very few families with children are detained and in each such case the decision to detain will not have been taken lightly or without consideration of alternatives.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what restrictions are placed on him by international law relating to the detention of children of asylum seekers in detention centres. [112786]

The detention of children of asylum seekers in removal centres under Immigration Act powers is not in conflict with the requirements or obligations of international law.