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Asylum Applications

Volume 512: debated on Monday 28 June 2010

11. How many asylum applications were made by individuals who had passed through another safe country to get to the UK in the most recent year for which figures are available. (4229)

In 2009, 2,665 cases were positively identified as having travelled through another EU member state that is considered safe under schedule 3 to the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Act 2004.

What do we do with those people? Surely we should not be giving asylum to people who come to this country via another safe country. Yes, let us give asylum to people who are genuinely fleeing persecution, but not to tourists.

I rather agree with my hon. Friend, who will know that, under the previous Government, one of the many shambles in the immigration and asylum system was the problem of being able to remove people to safe countries. We will try to do better. The Dublin regulation, which is the system under which we do this, is working—in 2009, the UK removed 625 more cases than we accepted—but it is not working well enough. [Interruption.] If former Ministers on the Opposition Front Bench can contain themselves, I shall give the reason: we must do better at returning cases to specific EU countries. We are doing better with Italy. The next case that we really need to get to grips with is Greece, but the Government are determined to do this.

Is the Minister aware of the great difficulties many of my constituents face when lodging an asylum claim? They have to travel to the UK Border Agency in Croydon to lodge claims for initial screening, and the full cost of that must be met by the individual concerned. Will the Minister look again at that system and consider any review that can make it fairer, so that constituents in the north-east do not need to travel to London?

It is perhaps a shame that the hon. Lady has launched an attack on a change made by her own Government in their last 12 months in office. I can see some logic in why Ministers in the previous Government made the change that she objects to: by and large, people who claim asylum should claim it as soon as they get to this country. That is one area where there is not much difference between those who sit on the Front Benches. So I am afraid that I will have to ignore her plea to change the system to make it easy for people who may have been here for many months or, in some cases, many years to claim asylum. Asylum is meant for people who come to this country as genuine refugees.