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House of Commons Hansard
EU Council: UNHCR Executive Committee
11 December 2017
Volume 633

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The Government have taken the decision not to opt in to EU Council decision on UNHCR Executive Committee conclusion on machine-readable travel documents for refugees and stateless persons.

The UNHCR conclusions urge states who have not yet done so to take necessary measures to introduce machine-readable convention travel documents for refugees and stateless persons lawfully staying in their territory at the earliest convenience. The conclusions also encourage existing national systems for civil documentation to include refugees and stateless persons and to limit fees for refugees and stateless persons. They commit member states to further strengthening international solidarity and burden-sharing to facilitate the transition to machine- readable travel documents to refugees and stateless persons. The EU Commission published a Council decision seeking agreement to an EU position supporting these conclusions.

The UK already offers travel documents to recognised refugees and stateless persons which exceeds the recommendation to issue machine-readable travel documents. Home Office travel documents are machine-readable and also include a biometric chip that contains a digital facial image of the document holder, similar to the British passport. Furthermore, the UK already complies with the points on costs of refugee travel documents; we align with the 1951 and 1954 UN Conventions which state that signatory states should charge no more than is charged for a national passport.

The Government are committed to taking all opt-in, decisions on a case-by-case basis, putting the national interest at the heart of the decision making process. As the UK is compliant with the conclusions, the UK has decided not to opt in to this Council decision.