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Mohammed Mirzo

Volume 785: debated on Thursday 19 October 2017


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, ahead of the planned deportation to Bulgaria of the Syrian refugee Mohammed Mirzo, what assessment they have made of the impact on his human rights.

My Lords, as a matter of policy, the Government do not comment on individual immigration cases but, as I discussed with the noble Lord just before Question Time to ask where this Question was leading, the Government respect the principle of family unity and our moral obligation to bring together families separated by conflict and persecution. That is why we provide legal pathways for people to come here through family reunion and resettlement. We must discourage people from risking their lives to come here illegally instead of claiming in the first country of safety that they reach.

I am grateful to the Minister for that reply, and I am happy to welcome the release of Mohammed from Campsfield immigration centre and, before that, the Parc Prison in Bridgend, but why was he there in the first place? What offence had he caused? We know that family reunion takes precedence over anything else. The Red Cross briefing on this states that if somebody applies to go under Dublin III, say to another country on their way in, that is fine, but if they have family in the UK, that takes precedence. What we see here is a breach by the Government of this regulation. I remind the Minister that the Dublin III regulation is of European origin; it is European legislation. What will happen to that if we come out of the European Union?

I again point out to the noble Lord that I will not discuss individual cases. I point out that Dublin III and family reunion are for different groups of people. Dublin III determines the member state responsible for processing or deciding on an asylum claim; our family reunion rules are for those granted refugee status in the UK, and allows those with refugee status to be joined with their pre-flight family. As for Dublin III when we leave the EU, it will of course be a matter for negotiation, but we have made it absolutely clear that we want to continue to co-operate with our EU partners on asylum and illegal migration.

My Lords, my right honourable friend the Defence Secretary recently warned British jihadists who go out to fight for ISIS that they may find themselves at the wrong end of an American or British missile. Would it be sensible to extend that warning to those British jihadists who go out to fight for ISIL that they will not be allowed to return to the UK?

My noble friend quite skilfully completely departs from the Question, but the word “Syrian” is in the Question, so I admire him for his efforts. What would happen would depend on the case. People who have been to Syria to fight are dealt with using the full force of the law if and when they return, and many do not return.

My Lords, returning to the point that the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, raised about family reunion and human rights, has the noble Baroness had a chance to read the letter I sent three days ago to her and the right honourable Brandon Lewis MP, the Immigration Minister? It concerns evidence given in your Lordships’ House only last week by a woman from Aleppo, who described how her 10 year-old niece had been forced to watch an execution, how three of her brothers had been taken by ISIS and subjected to torture, and one they tried forcibly to convert. This Armenian Syrian family had been seeking family reunion with others already successfully relocated to the United Kingdom. In cases such as this, what premium do we place on the position of minorities who come from particularly endangered backgrounds, who are rarely able to enter United Nations refugee camps because the very people who oppressed them are now running some of those same camps? What emphasis are we placing on helping families in that situation?

I think I have received the noble Lord’s letter, and he raises very complex and distressing circumstances. People in their country of origin would obviously be able to claim asylum here or resettlement. I will not go into the details of that case, as I would not with the noble Lord, Lord Roberts, but certainly we are very mindful of those special cases.

Can my noble friend confirm that hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees are now returning to Syria, and can she tell us what effect that is having on our policy of deporting Syrian refugees?

My noble friend makes a really important point, which is that if you are a Syrian you want to return to Syria in improved circumstances. I can give him exact figures by letter. Indeed, it is in all our interests to get a more peaceful situation in Syria so that people can return to their country of origin.

My Lords, people of many nations fought in the British fleet at Trafalgar, but I am pretty certain that there was not a single Bulgarian. The 212th anniversary of that great battle is on Saturday, and as this is the year of the Navy, according to the Secretary of State for Defence, I wonder whether the noble Baroness will pass the best wishes of this House to the Royal Navy on this very auspicious occasion.

I can always rely on the noble Lord to say something vaguely related to the Question. I most certainly will pass on those best wishes. Thank you.