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France: Dublin Regulation

Volume 774: debated on Monday 10 October 2016


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they are making to the government of France on the application of the Dublin Regulation in that country.

My Lords, the application of the EU’s Dublin regulation on French territory is a matter for the French Government and the European Commission. However, we continue to work closely with France to ensure the effective application of the regulation in cases which engage the UK’s obligations, including through regular, official-level contact and ministerial meetings.

I thank my noble friend for that reply but does she not agree that, as a matter of European law, the Dublin convention, as amended by the regulations, should be applied as it was intended, which is that the asylum claim be made at the point of entry? If that had applied from the outset in France, the Calais camps would never have arisen. Will she use her good offices to ensure that when the Calais camps are disbanded, claims are made at the point of entry, in France and in every other country that applies the Dublin regulation as it stands?

My noble friend makes the very good point that under the Dublin regulation, asylum claims should be made in the first country in which the claimant arrives. I will certainly follow that up on behalf of my noble friend.

My Lords, the Minister talked about an official being sent over to Calais. Is that just a single official? In the damning report that was mentioned earlier, the Red Cross said that one key way of speeding things up would be for officials—plural—to be sent to Calais as a matter of urgency.

My Lords, the noble Baroness asks a good question. One asylum expert is already seconded to France and another is being seconded. France and the UK have of course established a senior-level standing committee, and there is regular contact on Dublin and transferring children, including ministerial and senior-official contact, and daily contact between officials. In addition, as I said in answering the previous Question, we have a dedicated team in the Home Office Dublin unit.

My Lords, does the Minister agree that what we are seeing today—the largest mass movement of people in Europe since the Second World War—is a scenario that the Dublin III convention is unable to deal with? We have to deal with the reality of the situation. What representations have the Government made to the UNHCR to organise and co-ordinate action in the camp, including setting up a proper centre to assess and process claims, so that maybe we can get some progress on moving people to places where they really ought to be?

The noble Baroness is right—the situation is absolutely terrible. As I said earlier, we are working with the UNHCR, UNICEF, NGOs and the Government to ensure that the process is speeded up. As I said, the Home Secretary is today meeting with Bernard Cazeneuve.

My Lords, do not the Answers to both this Question and the last one indicate that it is time the Home Office had as its motto “Action this day”, not “Festina lente”?

My Lords, the Minister says that there are now going to be two officials in Calais looking into these crises for children. I find that unacceptable, as I think the whole House will. I hope she will take back to the Home Office the fact that we do not think two officials working in Calais is enough. There may be a special unit in the Home Office, which is very welcome, but we need more people on the ground processing these children’s applications.

My Lords, there are not just two officials working on this: there is an asylum expert seconded to France, and another one will be following. There are a number of people, both in France and in this country, working on a number of areas, as I hope I have outlined in answering these two Questions, and funding is going in—for example, to the FDTA—to identify people who are vulnerable to exploitation. There are not just two people working on this; myriad people, both in France and in this country, are working to get children and vulnerable people in particular to places of safety within France.

My Lords, some people will remember well that 50 years ago this week, there was a great disaster in Aberfan: 116 children and 28 adults were killed when slurry fell on the school. Would it not be a wonderful commemoration of and tribute to those children if we could say that this week, just before the demolition of the Calais camps, we had this movement now—action this day? Or perhaps members of the Conservative Party agree with the Prime Minister that they are no longer “citizens of the world”, with all that that means, and that they are a very narrow, “Little Englander” party—

I will repeat that: be citizens of the world and accept these children. Insist that they are brought over now.

I certainly pay tribute—it is a very good week to be remembering the Aberfan disaster of some 50 years ago. We do not forget these children but we have obligations and processes that we must follow, relating to other laws and child safeguarding, in order to place those children in the appropriate situation for their safety and their future.