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International Law on Rights of Refugees: Government Compliance

Volume 691: debated on Thursday 18 March 2021

What recent assessment he has made of the effectiveness of his Department in helping to ensure the Government’s compliance with international law on the rights of refugees. (913655)

Any request for my advice is subject to the Law Officers’ convention, but I must make it clear that the UK prides itself on its leadership within the international system and that it discharges its international obligations in good faith. I also point out that the Solicitor General, whom I very much welcome to her place, attends the Parliamentary Business and Legislation Committee, which scrutinises all the Government’s legislation before it reaches Parliament.

All are equal before the eyes of the law, and that includes those coming here seeking asylum. Why then are we using military camps, which are entirely unacceptable at the best of times and most certainly during a pandemic? Rather than seeking to copy Australia and transport asylum seekers abroad, is it not time that this Government accepted that refugees have rights and that the Attorney General took action to ensure that the Government adhered to their responsibilities?

Frankly, as the Home Office has made quite clear, the UK is a world leader in resettlement, so I do not recognise the point that the hon. Gentleman makes. If one looks at the actual figures, one sees that we have resettled nearly 30,000 people in the past five years, which is more than any other country in Europe. As for the use of former military barracks, if Her Majesty’s armed forces personnel can be housed appropriately in those barracks, there is no reason why anyone else cannot be. We adhere to our international and national obligations. This country is extremely open and generous in these matters. As I have said, we are the most open in Europe in terms of resettlement.

Reports in the press this morning indicate that the Home Secretary plans to send asylum seekers coming across the channel offshore, thousands of miles away, to have their claims processed. May I welcome the Attorney General to his place and ask him whether he has been consulted on the legality of these proposals yet? Can he reveal which countries his Government are doing this reprehensible deal with, given that this would be relevant to the legality of the proposals?

I thank the hon. Lady for her question, but I am afraid that I cannot discuss what advice I give in other Departments and I cannot comment on legislation that the Government have not presented to Parliament. What I can say is this: the Government’s position is that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country in which they find themselves. That is an international understanding, and European countries through which they have travelled to board boats to the UK, such as France, are of course manifestly safe.