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Volume 707: debated on Monday 2 February 2009


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government what is their response to the recommendation of the Independent Asylum Commission that destitute Zimbabweans should be allowed a temporary and revocable permit to work in the United Kingdom. [HL737]

Our asylum system provides protection to individuals where it is needed in the form of leave to remain in the United Kingdom. Asylum seekers who need support to avoid destitution are given it from the time they arrive in the UK until their claim is fully determined. Any failed asylum seeker who is unable to return home through no fault of their own can apply for support. It is not government policy to grant failed asylum seekers permission to work.

As the UK Border Agency noted in response to the commissioners’ findings, the Government believe that managed economic migration is a valuable source of skills and labour for the UK economy, and maintains recognised routes into the UK for those seeking to work. It is important to maintain the distinction between economic migration and asylum.

Allowing failed asylum seekers to work would be likely to encourage asylum applications from those without a well founded fear of persecution, thus slowing down the processing of applications made by genuine refugees and compromising the integrity of our asylum system.

Asked by

To ask Her Majesty's Government why they are deporting Zimbabwe citizens to Malawi, in view of the possibility that they may be immediately sent on to Zimbabwe; and [HL772]

To ask Her Majesty's Government what discussions they have had with the Government of Malawi concerning Zimbabwean asylum applicants whom they wish to send to Malawi; and whether they have received any assurances from Malawi. [HL773]

Unsuccessful asylum claimants are returned to Malawi only if they are entitled to reside there, and only when the decision-making and independent appeals system have found that this would be consistent with our obligations under the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights. Among many other factors, decision-makers and the courts take full account of any risk that the claimant would be removed from Malawi to another country where they could be at risk.

The nationality or entitlement of an applicant to reside in a country is determined by looking at and weighing up all of the available documentary and oral evidence. Where a person holds a genuine and legally obtained Malawian passport or other identity document issued by the Malawian authorities, that would normally be enough to show that the holder is entitled to reside in Malawi.

As an additional safeguard in the case of those who claim connections to Zimbabwe, the British High Commission in Lilongwe has obtained from the Malawian immigration authorities confirmation that they would not deport an individual who has Malawian nationality or the right to reside in Malawi, regardless of ancestral nationality or previous residence in a third country.