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Illegal Migration Bill

Volume 830: debated on Monday 5 June 2023

Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Amendment 30

Moved by

30: Clause 5, page 7, line 20, leave out paragraph (b)

Member's explanatory statement

This amendment removes a subjective power of the Secretary of State to determine that there are “exceptional circumstances” to prevent a removal.

My Lords, I also have various other amendments in this group. I feel I should speak very slowly in the hope that those who have the other amendments in this group arrive in time to introduce them.

Amendment 30 relates to Clause 5, which is one of the removal provisions. A number of noble and learned Lords, all learned in the sense that one generally understands it—I can see one of them in her place—have put a good deal of work into the other amendments in this group. I do not want to pre-empt what they and my noble friend Lord Paddick will say, so I will leave that support unspoken.

Clause 5(4)(b) places the Secretary of State above the law and above the courts, because the first hurdle to making a protection or a human rights claim is that

“the Secretary of State considers there are exceptional circumstances”

preventing removal to a particular country. This amendment is intended to probe what is meant by “exceptional circumstances”. I hope the Minister can expand on this. We have examples in subsection (5) which are about particular countries and not individuals. I suspect that they may include situations which are the subject of many other amendments in this group, and if so we should spell that out and not make it a matter of discretion. I am questioning the Secretary of State’s discretion, as I understand it—reasoned discretion, one hopes—or consideration that there are exceptional circumstances which prevent removal to a particular country.

It was only when I was preparing for today that I paused on the word “prevent”. Does it really mean preventing removal, which to my mind conjures up pictures of protestors preventing take-off of a plane carrying a particular individual? Or does it mean that removal is inappropriate or risky because of the reception—in the broadest sense—at the other end; or that there are circumstances which mean that removal would be unsafe? If it is about treatment at the other end, I am not sure that “prevent” is the right term.

I very much support the amendments—which we will hear about in a moment— extending the list of countries and parts of countries which are dangerous to return people to.

My amendments are directed at, and opposing, the notion that an individual can be safe in a part of a country if he is not safe in another part of the same country. Not every country is in a tidy unity, but where there are laws, they tend to apply overall. Where there are prejudices in a country, those who may be a threat to an individual will be free to travel between different parts of the country. Those are Amendments 52A to 52D, Amendment 52G and Amendment 53A.

Amendments 52B and 52D challenge the proposition in Clause 6(1) of removal if “in general” there is no serious risk of persecution or that removal will not “in general” contravene obligations under the human rights convention. What is meant by “in general”? I do not understand the term in this context. It is not fair to call it a lazy term, because I appreciate the vast amount of work that goes into drafting any Bill—however much one dislikes it—but it is not a very imaginative way to describe a situation. If you cannot give an example, you should not be trying to use generalised terminology. This seems to be another demonstration of the Government clutching at anything they can to deny obligations to asylum seekers. I beg to move Amendment 30.

My Lords, I apologise for my slightly late arrival in the first minute of this debate. I rise because I am the signatory of a number of amendments tabled by my noble and learned friend Lord Etherton, and because I have some amendments in my own name: Amendments 33A, 34 and 35.

The aim of all these amendments is to ensure that something happens which I feel should not cause any differences with the Government. I think it may be a matter of interpretation or a matter of adding a few words to the Bill. Principally, it relates to the treatment in third countries of people who fall within the LGBTQ group. Section 80B of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 provides that a state is a safe third state in relation to a claimant if

“the claimant’s life and liberty are not threatened in that State by reason of their race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.

I focus on the words

“member of a particular social group”.

I am sure the noble and learned Lord, Lord Bellamy, will acknowledge that the definition of a “particular social group” has been to the courts. Indeed, government guidance has been issued which accepts that being a member of the LGBTQ+ community, subject to the facts being established—obviously, there is a consideration of the facts in every case—entitles that person to protection from Section 80B, as I quoted. The purpose of these amendments, therefore, is to ensure that people who are seeking asylum because they are a member of that social group—or another definable social group—do not lose the full protection of the law by reason of the content of Schedule 1 to this Bill, and the provisions of Clause 5 in particular.

Amendment 35 inserts new subsections (10A) and (10B) into Clause 5. The purpose of those amendments is to provide that, where a country or territory in Schedule 1—that is, a country to which a person may be removed—is qualified by reference to a description of the person, the person cannot be removed to that country or territory if they fall outside the description of persons who may be removed there. At present, the only qualification in Schedule 1 is to restrict certain countries and territories in Schedule 1 to men. Other amendments in this group, including those which I tabled, would add further description of person restrictions to some of those countries or territories, thereby including people who fall within the categories of LGBTQ+—of course, I use that term as a shorthand.

Amendment 36 is consequential to Amendment 35, and Amendment 53 amends Clause 6(4)(b) by requiring the Secretary of State to follow any relevant decisions of courts and tribunals operating in the UK, and—and this is done in deference to the Government’s view of the European Court of Human Rights and is a genuine attempt to find a middle road—requires the Secretary of State to have regard to decisions of the European Court of Human Rights, as well as information from another appropriate source. Amendment 54 inserts a new Clause 6(5)(c), which makes clear, in what is otherwise a rather confusing clause, that in addition to omitting an entire country or territory from Schedule 1, or leaving a country or territory in Schedule 1, there may be expressly omitted from Schedule 1, in relation to that country, a particular description of person or group of people.

Taken overall, these amendments are an attempt—which I hope is pushing against an open door—to ensure that we are satisfied that the Bill protects people who would be persecuted because they form part of a particular group from that persecution which would take place. If anybody asks me for an illustration— well, I will give it anyway—anyone who was listening to the BBC “Today” programme this morning would have heard descriptions of what has been happening in Uganda. Indeed, a recording was played of a speech rather like the one I am making, except that it was of the most unbelievable bigotry in relation to LGBTQ+ people. It really demonstrates the danger that people can face if these changes are not made or clarifications given.

My Lords, I rise mainly to introduce Amendment 52F, in my name, but before doing that I would like to endorse everything that my noble friend Lord Carlile has just said. We should recognise that there are countries that people should not be sent to, where convention rights would not then apply to the subsequent refoulement. I also agree with the opening remarks made by the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, in moving her amendment. Again, I endorse those and associate myself with those remarks.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, was one of those who attended a meeting that I organised here before Second Reading of the Bill, which the Salvation Army and a number of other stakeholders attended; the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, was also present. The point about the Salvation Army is particularly relevant because, of course, it is one of the stakeholders that works for the Home Office in dealing with many of the people whom we are discussing in the context of this Bill. Arising out of that discussion, I thought it would be good to table amendments along these lines. In fact, there are others elsewhere in group 19 and I will come back to that in a moment.

In this group—group 4—Amendment 52F would ensure that there is consultation with relevant stakeholders in the country to ensure compliance with international obligations and that detailed assessments are made in respect of protection and support. I remain concerned that the Bill denies access to protections, safety and support for those seeking refuge and victims of modern slavery. I touched on that in previous groups that we debated earlier this afternoon.

In doing so, far from breaking the business model of people smuggling—as the Government repeatedly state—and deterring illegal entry into the UK, I think the Bill merely enhances the ability of people smugglers and people traffickers to operate with impunity. Currently, there has been very little assessment of the implications of the Bill for those seeking refuge and victims of modern slavery, including compliance with international legal instruments, as well as the financial implications if implemented and the effect on the wider modern slavery strategy.

I know the House is waiting with anticipation for the findings of the Joint Committee on Human Rights, which will meet again tomorrow to, I hope, come to a final conclusion about the report it has had to rush—pell-mell, one might say—because of the pace at which the Bill has been taken through both Houses of Parliament. Nevertheless, that report—I hope it will be unanimous but, if not, it will be a majority report—will be available to your Lordships for further consideration in Committee and on Report.

The Bill could have devastating effects on the rights of survivors of modern slavery. Furthermore, it is clear that my concern is shared right across party divides. We have seen that in the context of the debates in another place and the speeches made by people such as Sir Iain Duncan Smith and Theresa May that have been quoted in our earlier debates, but also from the survivors of modern slavery themselves. Indeed, the Joint Committee on Human Rights has had evidence from people who have been victims. I personally found it very moving to hear some of their own accounts. We have also heard from former law enforcement officials, lawyers and people who have dealt with these issues over very many years.

Rather than repeating what has already been said, I will speak specifically to Amendment 52F, which would ensure that there is consultation with relevant stakeholders in the country to ensure compliance with our international obligations and that detailed assessments are made in respect of protection and support. As I have said, the amendment sits alongside Amendments 85C and 92B, which are also tabled in my name but do not come until much later, in group 19. They would put on the face of the Bill an obligation for the Government to carry out due diligence to ensure the safety of those who are removed from the UK to other territories and countries. Indeed, we will come on to that question in a later group of amendments.

These amendments have been drafted with survivors of modern slavery and human trafficking in mind, as they too will be subject to removal from the UK if they have been deemed to enter the country irregularly. We know from experience the time it can take for a survivor to feel safe and begin their journey of recovery. We all know how heightened vulnerabilities need to be protected against trauma and the kinds of experiences people have had to endure, which have been referred to in some of our earlier debates. I cited one example earlier, reported to me by the Children’s Commissioner—I am still shocked by the story of a young boy from Iran who watched his parents being executed. It took him a year to get to the safety of this country, and the idea that he could be returned to who knows where, who knows when, is unconscionable as far as I and probably most Members of the Committee are concerned. That is why we have to think very carefully about the protections we place in the legislation. We also know that removal of survivors to another country against their will—or the fear that they might be repatriated—can exacerbate their vulnerabilities, delay or prevent that recovery process and unfortunately lead to the individual being re-exploited or re-trafficked, doing nothing to break the wicked cycle of exploitation.

If the Government insist on pushing forward with these plans of removing trafficking and modern slavery survivors from the UK, they must do so with the utmost diligence and transparency. That is why Amendment 52F would require the Government to undertake comprehensive assessments, including detailed consultation with relevant safeguarding and support organisations in the country or territory to which the survivor may be removed. It would also require the Government to assess the human rights situation of the relevant country, the protection and support available to potential and identified victims, the risks of further harm by exploitation and trafficking, and the risk of direct and indirect refoulement in that country.

The amendment would also require the Government to confirm whether the duty in Clause 2 and the powers in Clause 3 would not contravene both national and international legal instruments, including but not limited to: the Equality Act, the European convention against trafficking—which I referred to in an earlier group of amendments—the refugee convention, and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which we discussed at length in an earlier group.

Many of us in this House and in the other place will continue to work to ensure and enshrine the rights of survivors of modern slavery. Amendment 52F, alongside Amendments 85C and 92B when we get to them, are there to ensure some level of transparency and due diligence, which have so far been lacking within this process. The removal of survivors from protection in this country risks fuelling the cycle of exploitation that consumes lives and spits out profits for ruthless criminals. For this reason these amendments have been tabled, to ensure that the bare minimum is done to ensure the safety of those who are at risk of further harm of traffickers.

In summary, I will make four points. First, the amendment is primarily about ensuring that if there is intention to remove people to specific countries, there is a detailed understanding of both the risks and legislation, policy and practical resources in-country to meet the needs of those seeking refuge and victims of modern slavery.

Secondly, the amendment would require an assessment of the levels of protection and support, including risks of trafficking and retrafficking and wider direct and indirect non-refoulement.

Thirdly, detailed consultation with national and international stakeholders will mean greater transparency for the implementation of this legislation and make sure that it is put into place with appropriate structures around due diligence and accountability given the significant implications for those seeking refuge and victims of modern slavery.

Lastly, it would necessitate the Government making clear how the duty in Clause 2 and the powers in Clause 3 do not contravene national or international legal instruments in the implementation of the Bill should it become law, which includes those various international conventions which I referred to earlier. The failure to be able to declare the compatibility of the Bill with the European Convention on Human Rights speaks to the remarks made earlier on today by my noble friend Lord Hannay about the reputational loss there will be to this country if we are seen to be derelict in our upholding of conventions and treaties which have served us so well in the past.

My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and I agree with every single word he said in respect of protections and securities for the most vulnerable.

I have added my name to the amendments in the names of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett. I will not repeat the excellent intervention by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, but I refer the Committee to the contribution by the Minister—the noble Lord, Lord Murray—on day one of Committee, when he categorically rejected my explicit reference to LGBTQ as a protection because he said, quite rightly, that it is covered within the definition of a social group. Therefore I am sure—or rather I hope—that the Government will have absolutely no problem with our intention within the amendments, removing countries or adding corrections for definitions.

I want to look in particular at Amendment 50 in relation to Rwanda. We do not believe it is appropriate to include Rwanda when there are legal proceedings currently in the Court of Appeal as to the legality of the removal arrangements, otherwise the Government may contend that, whatever the courts in the UK or the European Court of Human Rights may say, Parliament has by this Act approved the removal arrangements in respect of Rwanda, and that trumps any court decision under our constitution.

I also want to refer to Amendment 43A in relation to Hungary and Amendment 49A in relation to Poland—both members of the European Union, as your Lordships know. We believe it is not appropriate to include these countries, because both Hungary and Poland are subject to proceedings under Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union. Such proceedings apply where the appropriate majority of the European Parliament or the Commission and the council

“may determine that there is a clear risk of a serious breach by a Member State of the values referred to in Article 2”

of the Treaty on European Union, which provides that the Union is founded on the values of respect for human dignity, freedom, democracy, equality, the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of persons belonging to minorities. I do not have to remind your Lordships that there are, and have been for many years, deep concerns within both Hungary and Poland about the discrimination faced by LGBTQ people and the ongoing threats to their safety.

The inappropriateness of the inclusion of Hungary and Poland is in these circumstances demonstrated by two matters. First, Clause 5(5) provides that exceptional circumstances that prevent removal to a country referred to in Section 80AA(l) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002—

“Inadmissibility of certain asylum and human rights claims: safe States”—

include where P is a national of a state that is the subject of proceedings under Article 7(1) of the Treaty on European Union. Secondly, on 3 February 2022, in the debate in your Lordships’ House on the Nationality and Borders Bill, the then Home Office Minister, the noble Baroness, Lady Williams of Trafford, accepted that, because of Article 7 of the Treaty on European Union proceedings, both Hungary and Poland would not come within the inadmissibility criteria for EU asylum claims.

I will not go on at length about the list of countries included, but I would point out the inappropriateness of returning an LGBTQ person to a country such as Nigeria, for instance, where you could face not only flogging but the death sentence. There are other countries we have looked at with regard to protections and the threats to LGBTQ+ people, and we have listed them in our amendments.

In conclusion, the LGBT exclusions in the amendments I have referred to and co-signed are based on case law, Home Office country of origin information, Home Office country policy and information notes, and incontestable facts and information.

My Lords, I rise in support of Amendment 53 tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and moved by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, also signed by the noble Lord, Lord Anderson of Ipswich. While I support everything said so far, I wish to draw the Committee’s attention to this amendment in particular and its constitutional importance, given the constitutional conceit of this whole Bill.

If I have said it before, I hope the Committee will forgive me: the conceit of this Bill is for the Secretary of State, via primary legislation, to tie her own hands and give herself a duty to do something that we believe to be unlawful. The reason for tying her own hands is to avoid the interference of the courts. That is, in essence, the conceit at the heart of the Bill. It goes a little further. The Home Secretary is tying her hands with a duty to remove people to a list of countries, but it is a list that she may add to. Now we are very permissive and the hands have become untied in a fairly fluid way when it comes to adding further countries to this list of supposedly safe countries in Schedule 1.

The contents of Schedule 1 therefore become quite important, hence the various submissions that are being made and the various amendments that are being tabled in Committee about this country or that country, not just as they are at this moment but, in a very difficult world in flux, regarding what may or may not happen in them in the future. The present Home Secretary, and Home Secretaries of whatever stripe of Government in the future, will have this duty to remove people to countries on a list which they may add to by secondary legislation. Therefore, the factors that they must consider as Home Secretary when adding to that list are incredibly important. I hope that the Committee agrees.

The factors for deciding whether a country is safe to add to the list are in Clause 6, particularly Clause 6(4), for those who can still pick up a Bill at this time of night:

“In deciding whether the statements in subsection (1)(a) and (b) are true … the Secretary of State … must have regard to all the circumstances of the country”.

Well, of course. That is a bit of a non-protection, because we would hope so, would we not? Secondly, the Secretary of State

“must have regard to information from any appropriate source (including member States and international organisations)”.

With respect, that is not enough. Therefore, it is worth being explicit about what has been done in Amendment 53, tabled by the noble learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and supported ably by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, which I support. They have beefed up that second limb, so that it is not just having regard to appropriate information. What does “appropriate information” mean—appropriate information as determined by the Secretary of State in this beautifully circular process? Instead, the Secretary of State must

“apply relevant decisions of courts and tribunals operating in the United Kingdom”.

There is a radical suggestion. The Secretary of State must have regard for the law and apply the law of the United Kingdom—the case law of our courts in this country—about the safety or otherwise of these countries that might otherwise be added to the list of the countries to which the Secretary of State will have a duty to remove people.

I almost choke on my words that this has to be put in law, but we are in a place of such disregard for our domestic courts. Therefore, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, were quite right to insist at the very least that this should be clear in the legislation before a future Secretary of State can add further to this schedule of countries to which people must be removed by current and future Secretaries of State.

Perhaps more controversially—not for the Minister currently sitting opposite but to others, although I hope not—in addition to applying the law of this United Kingdom, as has become our custom as good members of the Council of Europe and under the Human Rights Act, the Secretary of State, before adding countries to this list, must

“have regard to decisions of the European Court of Human Rights”,

so please do not add further countries to this duty to remove unless you have applied the law of this land and had regard to the European Court of Human Rights. The Minister is a distinguished former judge. He is unique in this Committee and on the Benches opposite as an international lawyer, as opposed to being just any old lawyer, like me. Like the noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, I hope that he will see the good sense in the amendment tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton.

My Lords, I was not going to intervene in this particular group of amendments but, seeing that the two Front Benchers have agreed we are going to stay until 10.40 pm, and as I believe we should not be rushing through groups, I will add my bit to scrutinising the Government’s thinking on these particular amendments.

I have done a lot of work with groups in the UK who work with individuals who have sought asylum because of their sexuality, sexual orientation or gender identity. It is not a straightforward assumption that people come here and the first thing they do is claim asylum on the basis of their sexuality or gender identity. They have lived in countries where to trust the authorities with personal information about your sexual orientation or gender identity would mean either jail, persecution, discrimination or in some cases death.

So when a lot of people come here who are claiming asylum or wish to claim asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they tend not to tell the authorities to start with. They tend to keep it private and very much to themselves. It is through a process of working with a number of non-government organisations and gaining trust during the interview process for asylum that, maybe on the fourth, fifth or sixth intervention with an official in the UK, they may start to open up. That is when many individuals who are claiming asylum as part of the LGBTQ+ community start to open up. They are secretive and they do not trust authority to start with.

This Bill gives them absolutely no way to explain why they are claiming asylum before the Government, under this Bill, make a decision that they could go to a country where they are in as much or more danger as in the country they have just come from in terms of their sexual orientation or gender identity. I am not clear how the Government come to the view that certain people, particularly gay males, transgender people, or people who are struggling with gender identity issues, are going to be able to go to a country of safe haven under the provisions of this Bill. If somebody is fleeing a country because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, they will maybe go to Gambia or Ghana or Jamaica. One only has to look at the Government’s own website to see travel advice that makes it very clear that these are not countries that you as an LGBT person should go to and be open, even if you are a tourist. The words that come out are “conservative” and “reserved”: “attacks” occasionally appear. So I just wonder how the Government have come up with this schedule, particularly with the process that a lot of individuals go through in terms of claiming asylum for sexual orientation or gender identity, knowing that it tends not to be something that is divulged instantly on the first interview, and then saying that people can go to countries, as I have suggested, and be safe. How would they know they are not sending somebody to a country where they are not safe?

I will move on slightly, because I was quite intrigued by the Government’s website on travel advice. With quite a lot of these countries, the Government’s own advice is that some of them are quite violent, with “express kidnappings” referred to in certain countries. If noble Lords do not know what an express kidnappings is, because I did not, it is literally that somebody will come, be able to determine that you are not from that country, assume that you are a foreign national, kidnap you instantly off the street, and then determine who your relatives are and where you have come from, and use you as a potential source of income, including potentially injuring you and in some cases killing you. On the Government’s website, with some of the countries on this Schedule 1, express kidnappings are there.

I have seen that, in at least one of the countries listed on the schedule, it is stated that the police are so stretched that one should not expect them to attend if there is a crime. There are a number of countries on here where it is very clear that the Government’s own advice to British nationals is that they are not the safest countries and crime is either committed against foreign nationals who are targeted or the police cannot deal with the crime that is already in the country.

I have asked this a number of times and will ask the Minister, a different Minister: what evidence have the Government used to determine the safety of these countries, particularly when the Government’s own website advice for British nationals in a number of these countries determines them not to be safe and not to be the kind of country where, if a crime is committed, the police would necessarily be able to attend and deal with it—even, in some cases, a serious crime?

I apologise that I was unable to be present on day one of Committee and I arrived today rather later than I had planned, so was unable to speak earlier. However, I am grateful to my noble friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Coventry for so doing.

In regard to this group, it is particularly Amendments 52A onwards for which I should like to express my support, although I fully support all that has been said around the individual countries and the issue around LGBTQ+ rights. However, there is real concern around naming a part of a country or territory as safe when much of the country might not be. So I fully support Amendment 52A on that basis.

In addition, I support Amendments 52E, 52F and 53, which are not just thinking about the situation in current countries but are looking to the future and how decisions are made in the longer term. It will be vital that we take seriously examining the situations in specific countries as and when they arise. We recognise that countries change and might become safe when they are currently unsafe. Equally, countries that are currently deemed safe may become unsafe. We need this kind of provision and I suggest that on Report we come back with a combination that pulls together all the safeties from those amendments.

I wish to ask a question of the Minister in regard to Amendment 43, spoken to by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, regarding Ghana. It relates to the points made my noble friend Lord Scriven.

The Home Office currently proposes that we move away from looking at countries on a case-by-case basis to determine which are safe. However, under the current Immigration Rules, the Government use the country policy and information note as the basis that officers will be able to use when they are considering a case.

The country policy and information note on Ghana regarding sexual orientation, gender, identity and expression, published in May 2022, states that of course each case will be considered on its own merits. That is obvious because that is what we are moving to. However, paragraph 2.4.13 states:

“In general, L, G and B persons are likely to be subject to treatment from the state that by its nature and frequency amounts to persecution”.

So, the Minister’s department for Ghana is saying that the state persecutes L, G and B people in general terms—but for men it is a safe country. So someone fleeing Uganda because of persecution because of their sexual orientation and arriving by an illegal route can now be deported to Ghana, where that very same person is now going to be vulnerable to, as the Government say, treatment from the state that by its nature and frequency amounts to persecution. I just want to ask the Minister why.

My Lords, we support all the amendments in this group, including the probing amendments tabled by my noble friend Lady Hamwee. It is quite clear from all sides of the Committee that just listing countries as being safe is not sufficient. The Government have already acknowledged that some countries are not safe to remove women to, for example. Therefore the principle is established that a country may be considered sort of generally safe, but not safe for particular individuals, whether because of their gender or sexual diversity. The noble Lord, Lord Carlile of Berriew, introduced amendments aimed at that. The amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Alton, would ensure that victims of trafficking and modern slavery are not removed to a country where they would not be safe. As both my noble friends said, when you contrast the list of countries in Schedule 1 with the Government’s advice to travellers, for example, there is clear inconsistency between the two, or at least a case for the Government to answer in terms of using the countries in Schedule 1 as a blanket list rather than looking into the specific problems or dangers faced by people who belong to different social groups.

The other concern I have is, if people who arrive by means of what the Home Office calls irregular routes are not to have their asylum claims considered at all, how will the Government know whether the individual concerned is, for example, gay or a lesbian and therefore will be put in danger if they are removed to a country that clearly persecutes people from those groups? If there is going to be no consideration of the merits of an individual’s claim, how can the Government be certain that the person is going to be safe if they are removed to one of these countries?

My Lords, this is another important group of amendments and we support all of them. I remind noble Lords of the importance of this. Since the Bill assumes that everybody arriving irregularly will be detained and automatically removed, where they are going to be removed to becomes important to us all, and for us to have some consideration about the criteria which the Government will use is of particular importance. Can the Minister confirm that deterrence does not trump human rights with respect to removals? That was the implication of what his noble friend Lord Murray said earlier—that deterrence is everything and something that has to be achieved irrespective of any other consequence.

Since the Government always say that they are on the side of the British people, let me be controversial for a moment. With regard to the issues that we have been discussing in this group of amendments, I do not believe that the British people believe that deterrence should trump human rights. Let us make this real. I have looked at this, as other Members have done, in relation to various LGBTQ rights in countries that the Government say will be safe to send failed asylum seekers to through the Bill. Let us take the case of Nigeria; as my noble friend Lord Cashman has said, you can be flogged for being gay there. In Malawi, it is up to 14 years’ imprisonment with or without corporal punishment. In Liberia, it is a maximum of three years in prison.

Can the Minister tell us, on behalf of His Majesty’s Government, whether a failed asylum seeker who is gay would be removed to those countries? In the end, that goes to the essence of what we are talking about. I want to know, and the British public and this Chamber want to know: will such an individual—or anyone in circumstances detailed in the helpful amendments tabled by the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, my noble friend Lord Cashman and the noble Baroness, Lady Bennett—be deported, or not? I do not think they should be deported in those circumstances. I do not see how those countries can be included in Schedule 1; I do not understand that at all. I do not believe that the Minister would want anyone —a female asylum seeker, for example, who has failed according to the terms of the Bill—to be returned to a country where they would be persecuted. Would such a country be included in Schedule 1? Rather than these general terms, let us see the specifics of what would happen.

Some noble Lords who have been Members of the other place will know that people will often say in general terms, “It’s an outrage”, or that “It’s about time those people were sent back” or “dealt with”. Then, the individual case—the individual family, the individual asylum seeker, the individual gay person—comes up and that very same community launches a campaign to stop them being deported. You can see it happening up and down the country because people are genuinely decent. When the human consequences of a piece of legislation are made clear, that general enthusiasm and support dissipates because they understand its consequences.

When the Minister answers the various questions of noble Lords, I want him to answer the specifics about an individual gay person who has failed as an asylum seeker under the terms of the Bill. Will they be returned to the sorts of countries and the sorts of persecution that other noble Lords and I have outlined?

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have put forward amendments in this group and contributed to this debate. The Government completely understand the sincerity and thought that has gone into these amendments and we are grateful for those observations but, for the reasons that I hope I will be able to explain, the Government do not feel that we should accept the amendments.

I will take first Amendment 30, which is where the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, began. It would prevent an individual being removed back to their country of nationality if they made a protection or human rights claim against a country listed under proposed new Section 80AA of the 2002 Act. We should remember that we are talking about EU nationals, plus those from Switzerland and Albania. It has been the case for many years that the EU asylum system has not in general permitted an EU national to claim asylum against being sent back to his own EU country. This is not a new provision, as these countries are safe and there is no good reason why a national from one of these EU states, or Switzerland or Albania, should not be sent back to their home country.

The particular exception, which is of long standing and was in Section 80A of the 2002 Act, is where there are exceptional circumstances. Those are set out in the Bill as they were set out in the 2002 Act. It does not give, as I think may have been suggested, the Secretary of State an unlimited discretion. Every discretion must be exercised according to law. The exceptional circumstances are, in large part, already defined in the Bill. At the moment, the Government do not accept that there is a need for any new test for returning people to EU states or to Switzerland or Albania, in addition to the test that already exists. We should not be concerned with those claiming asylum against what are, in essence, safe countries.

As for the question which arose on the meaning of “prevent”, I think the meaning is not to do with getting on to the aircraft; it is whether sending them back would put them at risk. I think that was the meaning that the noble Baroness suggested. As far as I am concerned, that is the meaning. It is: are there exceptional circumstances which mean that it is not safe for an individual to be returned to those particular countries? That is likely to be very rare.

Amendments 52A, 52C, 52G and 53A are on the question of “part of a country”. The countries of the world are many and varied, with different political and social systems. One can, for example, envisage a situation where there is a contained conflict in one part of a country but most of the country is safe. One can think of certain areas, for example, in peripheral parts of the Indian sub-continent where there may be certain disturbances which mean that part of the country is not entirely safe; it does not mean that the whole of India, for example, would not be safe. Part of a country is a sensible provision and precautionary clause to include. Although the list in Schedule 1 currently covers the whole of all the countries, we should keep open the possibility, or not close the door on it, of specifying a part of a country.

Amendments 52B and 52D relate to the test for adding countries to Schedule 1 and, in particular, they test the references to the words “in general” that appear in the clause. I will deal with the question from the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, about the exact origin of this list of countries. The answer is that it is something of an amalgam of various lists that have developed over the last 20 years, with the 2002 Act and the 2004 Act —various countries have been added at various stages. This schedule is, in effect, an amalgamation of the lists of safe countries currently set out in Section 94(4) of the 2002 Act and paragraph 2 of Schedule 3 to the 2004 Act, with the addition of the Republic of Rwanda and, at the moment at least, the exclusion of Ukraine. So it is simply what we have already, collected together in one place.

The test for adding countries to this list, particularly the words “in general”, is again not new: it is the test set out in Section 94(5) of the 2002 Act. Including a country in Schedule 1 simply requires the Secretary of State to be satisfied that it is considered generally safe. But, of course, if a person is to be removed to such a country, they would still have the opportunity to challenge their removal, on the grounds that they would face a real risk of serious and irreversible harm if removed to that country. The individual would not be removed if there was found to be such a risk. I will come to this point in a moment, particularly in relation to the questions from the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, about the position of the individual—they are perfectly fair. But the procedure for the claim of serious and irreparable harm protects the individual in those circumstances, so the Government do not consider that “in general” should come out of the Bill.

I wish to probe a little more what the Minister said. I understand his points about certain parts of countries. As I understand it, the Government accept that, in certain parts of countries, the risk to the individual will be such that that person should not be returned or sent to them if they are part of what could otherwise be a safe country. What is our Government’s mechanism to secure a guarantee from that country’s Government that that person would not then be sent to that region?

I suppose that the direct answer is that one would have to negotiate an appropriate agreement with the country concerned. I agree that that may not be enough, and the situation may well be such that it is not appropriate to designate a part of the country. All I am saying is that one should have this power; I am not necessarily saying the circumstances in which one should exercise it. It would still be open to an individual, in a suspensive claim, to say, “I’m still at risk because I might be transferred to the part of the country where it would be too dangerous for me to be sent”. That would be part of the analysis that the tribunal seized of the case would have to make.

I appreciate that the Minister said that, therefore, a negotiation may have to be done on not sending someone to part of a country. How would the British Government and the Home Office then monitor that to ensure that the host country kept to the agreement and that people were not moved to the part of the country that was deemed unsafe?

The Government would have to monitor it as best one could, and, if it turns out that an arrangement is not satisfactory, it probably may not be a good idea to designate that part of the country as safe in the first place. All I am saying is let us not deprive ourselves of the opportunity to have this flexibility. We can work it out as we go forward.

What I should come to now are Amendments 35, 36, 41 to 52 and 54 in the name of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, so ably developed by the noble Lord, Lord Carlile, and spoken to by others. In essence, they seek to amend either Clause 5 or the references to various countries listed in the schedule on the basis that certain individuals would have a well-founded fear of persecution and that we should therefore now declare in statute which these countries are and on what basis people should not be sent back to them. In general terms, the Government’s view is that it is not desirable to enshrine in statute descriptions of which countries are safe or not, or of particular groups of individuals or those with protected characteristics. The route—

I will finish my train of thought and then give way. The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, rightly asked about the route for the protection of the individual. If there is a removal notice to a country in question, and if they have a well-founded fear of persecution and would be at real risk of serious and irreversible harm if removed to that country, they have a right to make a suspensive claim—a claim of suspensive harm—and that claim is then appealed to the Upper Tribunal. That is their individual protection in which their individual circumstances are closely considered, including in a judicial process. That is the essential protection.

I also clarify that, if you read the Bill with care, you will see that people cannot be sent back to a country unless we are satisfied that the country is prepared to accept them. In practical terms, that will include Rwanda at the moment and other countries in the future, with which we might be able to form immigration partnerships. However, that is a precondition that does not necessarily apply to many of the countries listed in the schedule.

First, following on from what the Minister said at the beginning of the answer he has just given, when he said that the Government do not feel that it is appropriate to list characteristics of individuals in the Bill, I ask him: why in Schedule 1 are there, on eight occasions, a description of an individual in the list of countries for men only? They are deemed not safe for women; therefore, the Government have described certain groups of individuals by a characteristic.

Secondly, and very importantly, the point I raised—which the Minister may be coming to, based on his last answer—was that most people who claim asylum on LGBT, sexual orientation or gender identity grounds tend not to start with that. Therefore, it would be completely missed if there were not people supporting them to be able to go through a normal process. In some cases, it takes five or six attempts before that person will claim asylum on their own characteristic, because they do not trust authority, and so that trust has to be built.

My Lords, in relation to the first part of the question asked by the noble Lord, it is true that there are certain countries designated for men only, and so forth, in the existing schedule. The Government do not consider that that is an appropriate precedent to extend at this stage. Circumstances change and countries change, so it is much better to deal with this on an individual basis. It is probably the case, one would have thought as a matter of common sense, that, if it arises, the Government’s travel advice to particular countries, to raise one particular point, is likely to be a highly material fact, when they come to consider the risk of serious and irreversible harm.

I am grateful to the Minister for the answer he gave to a point I raised earlier. I ask him whether, before Report, he will talk to some of those organisations which have been the secondary referrals for people who have tried to make claims that they would be in danger in unspecified other countries. They face the extreme inconsistency of quality legal advice in different parts of the country, and they often obtain quality legal advice only when some well-meaning social worker or other person refers them to the Children’s Society or some other organisation, which has a proper team of lawyers, who are able to give informed advice. Around the country, where the people we are talking about tend to be dispersed, the knowledge of this part of the law is thin.

My Lords, the Government are always prepared to talk to anybody who would like to put forward various ideas. We will come to the question of legal advice and legal protections and procedures in a later group, where I will be very happy to elaborate on the Government’s plans in that respect.

The judge in an Upper Tribunal would no doubt be trying to determine the will of Parliament in deciding the issues before us. In what circumstances do the Minister or the Government believe a judge would send a gay individual going to the Upper Tribunal as the result of a suspensive claim back to Nigeria or a similar country?

I am not sure I completely understood the question. It may well be that in practice there will be various countries to which people with certain characteristics will never be sent because it is well known either at the level of the case worker and the Home Office or at the level of the judiciary that such a claim would give rise to a risk of “serious and irreversible harm”.

Let me try again for the Minister. It is often said in court that judges were uncertain as to the intention of Parliament and it was not clear in the legislation what Parliament actually meant and therefore there was ambiguity. For the sake of avoiding any ambiguity, let us say that a suspensive claim goes to the Upper Tribunal, where the judge will determine whether that claim is right and whether an individual should be sent back to a particular country. So that the judge in the Upper Tribunal is not in danger of misreading the will of Parliament, I do not think that Parliament would want a gay individual who had failed because of the terms of the Illegal Migration Bill to be sent back to a country such as Nigeria which flogs gay men. I am asking the Minister of the Crown to say what the Government’s attitude is towards gay men in those circumstances, so that a judge in an Upper Tribunal will know what the intention of Parliament was. I hope that was clear enough for the Minister.

My Lords, the Government’s position is that no one should be sent back if to do so would lead them to face

“a real, imminent and foreseeable risk of serious and irreversible harm”.

If that is the position in relation to gay men in Nigeria, there should be no difficulty in them satisfying those conditions.

I am sorry to trouble the Minister again, but I have been listening to this with great interest and have two questions. First, is the Minister able to say any country outside Europe where it would be safe to send a gay man or indeed woman back? Secondly, if there are any countries, would it be possible for the Government to put those on their website?

It will remain a question of fact in each case and the examples of relevant harm are set out in Clause 38(4), which refers to

“death … persecution … torture … inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”

and where onward removal would raise a risk of

“real, imminent and foreseeable risk of … harm”.

If that in practice amounts to a situation in which you could not send a gay person back to that country, that would be a decision for the tribunal.

I am so grateful to the Minister for responding with his characteristic courtesy and patience. I think I can help him, because I think the problem here arises from the Government own cake-eating, if I can put it like that. The general proposition in the Bill is that we will now decide on a blanket basis that people are to be removed, regardless of their circumstances, because of the means of their arrival, not because of the circumstances of their past and their persecution. Fair enough; that is the thinking behind the Bill. Then the Government say, “Here is the schedule of safe countries”, again on a blanket basis. Then the Government say, “But only for men”—so they have already adopted the approach that there are some countries that are safe for men but not for women. But then when my noble friends and other noble Lords in the Committee say, “But gay people are a vulnerable group in many parts of the world, just as women are”, the Minister is, I think, forced into the Government’s position of saying, “But women are not a precedent”.

That logic is not standing up to scrutiny, in this Committee at least, so I hope that, after Committee and before Report, the Minister might just consider that issue of gay people, or LGBT+ people, in particular. We all know, in this Committee, that just as there are some countries that may be safe for men but not women, there are many countries that are not safe for queer people either. Rather than playing on this sticky wicket, which he, with his characteristic grace, handles with great aplomb, perhaps before Report, the Government could think again.

My Lords, the Government will of course consider that, as we try to consider everything that is said in this House, before Report. I simply reiterate that under Clause 5(3)(d), it still has to be

“a country or territory to which there is reason to believe P will be admitted”—

and that is probably not very likely to be satisfied in the particular countries we are talking about, such as Ghana, for example. Having responded to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, the Government will of course consider the position.

On that very point, what is the point of having Ghana in that schedule? There is no agreement with Ghana at all, so how do the Government know that Ghana would be unlikely to accept someone who is not admissible under the UK scheme? The UK will presumably not necessarily divulge that that person is gay.

My Lords, I sought to explain earlier that Schedule 1 is an amalgam of all the existing schedules that exist. Ghana was already on a list of countries to which people could be sent, and the present practice is not to send people back to places where they are at serious risk. That practice will continue under this Act when you make a suspensive harm application. It is a historical situation, but it has to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. As I said to the noble Baroness a moment ago, the Government will reflect on what has been said in this debate.

That brings me to deal specifically with the question of Rwanda and the fact that there are currently proceedings pending in relation to Rwanda, as the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, pointed out. So far, the High Court has upheld the position on Rwanda: we will see what the Court of Appeal judgment says. If the case goes further, it will be a matter for judicial decision and we will see how that works out, but we will not take Rwanda out at this stage, while the matter is still pending. I think that is also the answer, if I may say so, in relation to Amendments 43A and 49A on Hungary and Poland. These are ongoing proceedings: let us see what the outcome is and then it can be properly determined whether Poland and Hungary are countries that should remain on the list. That is not clear yet and it depends on the outcome of those pending proceedings.

I think that I am nearly through, except for the very important points raised by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, and others, as to whether we should beef up Clause 6(4)(b), which at the moment places certain requirements on the Secretary of State, in deciding on possible new countries and territories. The thrust of the amendment suggested by the noble Lord and supported by others is that effectively there should be a more detailed list of conventions and other international instruments to which the Government should have regard, with a specific obligation of consultation. The noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, and others wanted in particular to enshrine the obligation to follow the decisions of domestic courts and the Human Rights Act.

The Government’s position on this—and of course, as with other things, we will reflect on it—is that these are effectively de facto covered in the existing Clause 6(4)(a) and (b). They provide that the Secretary of State must—it is a positive duty—

“have regard to all the circumstances of the country”


“must have regard to information from any appropriate source (including member States and international organisations)”.

That, in the Government’s view, necessarily requires the Secretary of State to have regard to case law, whether it is domestic or European; to have regard to international conventions and obligations; and to have regard to what international organisations say—and they are not exactly bashful when coming forward in this kind of area. The Secretary of State would be seriously at risk of being found to have acted irrationally or found not to have taken into account relevant considerations, if there was a major international organisation, a major convention or a major decision that had somehow been overlooked. So the combination of the normal duties of rationality and duty to take into account all relevant considerations, plus the actual wording of Clause 6(4), in the Government’s present view, covers the situation adequately.

I am grateful to the Minister. The hour is late, and I promise not to intervene again on his remarks. Before we get to group 19, which is also linked to this amendment, or indeed before we get to Report, could the Minister arrange for his officials or perhaps for himself or his noble friend to meet the Salvation Army and the other providers and stakeholders to which I referred in my remarks? It was they who raised these concerns—and, given that they have a contract with the Home Office, they are in a pretty good position to know the territory.

My noble friend Lord Murray tells me that that is already in train—or, certainly, there is no objection from the Government’s point of view.

My Lords, I too thank the Minister for his patience and graciousness. Given the amendments that I raised, which I co-signed with others, particularly with the noble and learned Lord, Lord Etherton, and given the notion that deterrent trumps all, I am still not reassured that a person would not be returned to somewhere like Uganda, where you face 14 years’ imprisonment or the death penalty for “aggravated homosexuality”. I am not reassured that a person will not be sent to those countries if they are at serious risk. Historically—and I shall close on this intervention—in the Home Office, people have been told that they will be returned to countries where they should not make their sexual orientation or gender identity known. I do not want us to return to those days.

In taking full account of what the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, has just said, which was obviously a powerful comment, I simply reiterate, as I have said to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, that the Government will consider the content of this debate. However, I reiterate first of all that this is a judicial and not a Home Office decision, and that those concerned will need to explain to the tribunal why they do not want to be sent back to these countries.

Secondly, and in practice, this is all predicated on the country being willing to accept them. At the moment, the only agreement we have is with Rwanda. There may well be others. I hesitate to give any commitment but it seems, if I may say so, most unlikely that the fears of the noble Lord are well founded. It is most unlikely that these postulated circumstances will arise in practice.

The equality impact assessment that the Government have done on this talks particularly about sexual orientation. The very point that the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and others have made is that people will be returned. The Government more or less say that that will be the case unless something happens:

“Where individuals are from a country where their sexual orientation is criminalised, and their exploitation is linked to their sexual orientation, they may require additional support in order to trust and engage with law enforcement”.

That is the Government’s own equality impact assessment. Where in the Bill is that extra support in place? I cannot see it anywhere in the Bill to ensure that discrimination does not take place against people from the LGBT community. Therefore, subsequently, if this support is not put in place, people from the LGBT community will be sent to places where they are unsafe due to local LGBT laws.

My Lords, at this stage I do not think I can elaborate beyond the answers I have already given. This is going to be a matter for the judicial process—through the appeal process, the legal advice and the legal representation that these people have. If they can show serious and irreversible harm, then they will not be sent to these places.

My Lords, I thank the Minister for the care with which he has responded to these amendments. I do not know whether I am right, and I do not want to embarrass him, but I sensed a slight feeling of discomfort with the issues we are having to address. I applaud him for that.

It seems to me that noble Lords have been both practical and principled in this debate. I agree with the analysis about half an hour ago by the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, of the position, but the practicality has been by testing the reality of different circumstances. It was the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, who said that, when faced with the situation of somebody one knows well being in this precarious position, it all looks very different. I agree; it is rather similar to feelings about people who come from other cultures. We are suspicious of them—“But not So-and-so—no, she is fine”.

On Amendment 30, I will read the report of what the Minister has said. I was not challenging most of subsection (4). It was simply the discretion, and I take what has been said about the Secretary of State having to act reasonably and so on. Subsection (5), however, says that “exceptional circumstances include”. That, to me, raises questions about what might not be included on the face of the Bill.

The Minister is quite right that I was trying to read “prevent” as someone being put at risk, and I think the Bill should say so because a person is prevented from being removed only if, in his individual case, he falls within the exceptions. That is not the natural understanding of the term. I have to say that I remain very concerned about the issue of a part of a country. A conflict in one part of a country can spread very fast, and can the risk to an individual—if he is persona non grata in one part of the country, that can become known in another part of the country very easily—and we are talking about individuals.

I am still a bit confused about “in general”. I understand that the lists we have are an amalgam of previous lists. The Minister defends the position—I think I am right in saying—by referring to procedures that can be used to challenge a decision. We are going to get to some more of this later in the Bill, but noble Lords have already shown their concern about the very narrow circumstances in which challenges—if I can use the term broadly—can be made.

A couple of things have come up in the Minister’s response that have made me think again about these. I would have mentioned some in any event, but I sure that noble Lords will understand that I am, at this moment, speaking a little bit slowly for reasons of time. If there is to be a negotiation about a home country and whether to have a negotiation with that country, does that actually raise the risk of drawing the individual to the attention of the authorities in that country and putting that person in greater jeopardy than he may have been?

The notion of acceptance by the receiving country has also been raised. I do not know whether the Minister can answer this tonight; if he can take a couple of minutes to do so, it would be helpful. If the UK and other countries are going to say, “Will you accept this individual?”, does that not, again, put that individual in jeopardy, because the reason for his having sought asylum in the UK will become known? We are in Committee, so the Minister is free to reply if he can help at this point.

My Lords, I expect that I am being asked to play a sort of night watchman role in continuing the batting until stumps are drawn. As far as I know, it is not the case that the Government intend to engage in negotiations in relation to particular individuals. The Government’s general policy is to engage in discussions with particular countries about reciprocal arrangements and migration partnerships. There are various reports of other countries that are currently engaged in discussions.

Subject to correction—I am sure my noble friend Lord Murray will put me right—I think it is very likely to be the case that a lot of what we have discussed tonight in relation to Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda is simply not going to arise. I know that the noble Lord, Lord Cashman, and others are sceptical about that and it may be that the Government need to provide some further reassurance to satisfy noble Lords. Perhaps the noble Baroness will forgive me for noticing the time.

I am grateful to the Minister. That has raised further issues in my mind about what information may be given—not necessarily about an individual—to a receiving country, whether the questions may be asked and how the UK responds.

I think stumps probably can be drawn, though it is not in my gift to say so. I beg leave to withdraw Amendment 30.

Amendment 30 withdrawn.

Amendments 31 to 33

Moved by

31: Clause 5, page 7, line 24, after “Convention,” insert “or has obtained a passport or other document of identity in such a country,”

Member’s explanatory statement

See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.

32: Clause 5, page 7, line 27, after “State,” insert “or has obtained a passport or other document of identity in a member State,”

Member’s explanatory statement

See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.

33: Clause 5, page 7, line 43, after “2002,” insert “or has obtained a passport or other document of identity in such a country,”

Member’s explanatory statement

See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.

Amendments 31 to 33 agreed.

Amendment 33A not moved.

Amendment 34

Moved by

34: Clause 5, page 8, line 5, after “2002,” insert “and has not obtained a passport or other document of identity in such a country,”

Member’s explanatory statement

See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.

Amendment 34 agreed.

Amendments 34A to 37 not moved.

Amendment 38

Moved by

38: Clause 5, page 8, line 28, after “State” insert “, or who has obtained a passport or other document of identity in that State,”

Member’s explanatory statement

See the explanatory statement for the amendment in the name of Lord Murray of Blidworth at page 7, line 17.

Amendment 38 agreed.

Amendments 39 and 40 not moved.

House resumed.

House adjourned at 10.42 pm.