Amendment to the Motion

Part of Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Amendment of List of Safe States) Regulations 2024 - Motion to Approve – in the House of Lords am 8:15 pm ar 19 Mawrth 2024.

Danfonwch hysbysiad imi am ddadleuon fel hyn

Photo of Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Lord Ponsonby of Shulbrede Shadow Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 8:15, 19 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, these regulations mark a step towards the implementation of the few parts of the Illegal Migration Act 2023 that have come into force since it received Royal Assent. The key sections on the duty to detain and remove asylum seekers arriving by small boat, among other provisions, have apparently been accepted as unworkable by the Government, at least for the time being.

The current list of safe countries of origin from which it is expected that, in general, people will not have grounds for asylum in the UK is set out in Section 80AA of the 2002 Act, as amended by Section 59 of the Illegal Migration Act, as was explained by the Minister. Historically, during the time in which the UK was part of the EU, the designation of safe countries of origin applied mostly to other EU and European Economic Area member states. Those countries remain on the list, with the more recent addition of Albania, and with Georgia and India now marking the first significant expansion of that list beyond the EU and the EEA.

We support these changes in principle, notwithstanding a few important questions. It is right that the Government go into some detail about how these changes would work in practice and how Indian and Georgian nationals, who under exceptional circumstances face harm or death, can still seek refuge in our country. The grant rate for Indian asylum seekers has stayed at under 10% in recent years, but for Georgia it has swayed between 15% and 30%. I understand that there are fewer applications from Georgia in numerical terms, but it would be useful to hear from the Minister how those successful applications translate into appropriate cases of exceptional circumstances in the future.

There is little detail on how exceptional circumstances would apply. The example tests for exceptional circumstances set out in the 2002 Act will not apply to India and only one—the ECHR test—will apply to Georgia. The Government have stated to the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee that guidance will be published to caseworkers in due course. Do the Government mean to say that the guidance does not currently exist? How are decisions made now, before that guidance is in place?

As others, including the noble Lord, Lord German, have pointed out, given that the Home Office’s own policy notes on India speak of the existence of serious human rights abuses, including rape, torture and death—and, for Georgia, they note politically motivated prosecutions —it is vital that discretion can be exercised for individuals in those countries in appropriate circumstances.

I hope that the Minister can outline today how this guidance will work, whether it will be in place when these regulations come into force and whether it will be published. Can he also outline what is being done to improve returns rates for both Indian and Georgian nationals? The UK has migration returns agreements with both countries, but the current returns rate of Indian nationals seeking asylum stood at less than 7% in the year to September 2022. Can he outline what the returns rate is so far for Georgia, given that it has been a year since the bilateral returns agreement was signed? Depending on his answer to that question, and given the low rate of Indian national returns, can he outline what the Government are doing to improve returns rates for both countries? Finally, can he say how the introduction of this list impacts outstanding claims? Will it apply simply to new claims, or will it be retrospective? I look forward to his replies.