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Immigration Controls

Volume 473: debated on Monday 17 March 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) if she will make a statement on the rules and procedures to combat illegal migration and progress expected to be made in areas such as border management, document security and the fight against organised crime by (a) Albania, (b) Bosnia and Herzegovina, (c) Montenegro, (d) Serbia, (e) the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, (f) the Government and (g) the European Union in order to meet the terms of visa facilitation and readmission agreements; (185473)

(2) if she will make a statement on the effect for UK border control of the visa facilitation and readmission agreements between the EU and (a) Albania, (b) Bosnia and Herzegovina, (c) Montenegro, (d) Serbia and (e) the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

The UK maintains the security of its own border controls and does not participate in EU visa facilitation agreements. The EU visa facilitation agreements concluded with the Western Balkan states, and therefore have no direct effect on UK border control. The agreements allow the UK to consider whether it should conclude bilateral visa facilitation agreements with the Western Balkans states. Were we to do so, we would ensure that they were consistent with the protection of the UK border and wider visa policy.

The UK regards European Community Readmission Agreements as a key part of co-operation with third countries and an essential component in the fight against illegal immigration. These agreements (with the exception of Albania) have only recently come into force, and it is therefore too early to gauge their effectiveness. However, we do expect them to ensure effective and rapid procedures for the identification, documentation and return of persons (nationals of the EU member states and the third country involved; third country nationals and stateless persons) illegally entering or remaining, and to facilitate the transit of persons, in the spirit of co-operation.

The Western Balkan states are all either candidate countries to join the EU (Croatia, former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or potential candidate countries. Progress in achieving EU-level standards, including in border control and organised crime, is part of the candidate process and is assessed each year by the European Commission.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what assessment she has made of the likely effect of the introduction of the points-based immigration system on the operation of the resident labour market test; and what plans she has to amend the test. (191944)

We will ensure that under the PBS we continue to protect the privileged position held by British workers in the job market.