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 Sharpe of Epsom Lord Sharpe of Epsom The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department 8:15, 19 Mawrth 2024

My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have contributed to this relatively short debate. These regulations, by themselves, do not introduce a new process or policy. It is not for us to debate today the safe country of origin inadmissibility provisions; those provisions have been a long-standing part of our asylum laws and have been expanded via the Illegal Migration Act 2023. These regulations seek to expand this list further to incorporate Georgia and India as generally safe. I acknowledge that, in considering whether it is appropriate to do so, questions have been asked today about how the list will be used.

The inadmissibility of asylum and human rights claims from nationals of safe countries aims to deter abuse of our asylum system from those who would seek to abuse it and do not need to seek protection in the UK. It will reduce pressure on the asylum system and allow us to focus on those most in need of protection. Treating asylum claims from EU nationals in this way is not new: it has been a long-standing process in the UK asylum system that is also employed by EU states. But EU states are not the only countries that are safe countries; therefore, it is right that these provisions have been expanded through the Illegal Migration Act 2023.

Once commenced, Section 59 of the 2023 Act introduces the new Section 80AA(1) safe countries of origin list, so that these provisions would apply not only to EU nationals but, as I mentioned in my opening remarks, to those from the other EEA states of Iceland, Norway and Liechtenstein, as well as Switzerland and Albania.

For a country to be added to the list of safe countries of origin, it must be assessed as safe as per the criteria set out in the new Section 80AA(3) of the 2002 Act, as inserted by Section 59 of the Illegal Migration Act. The test sets out that a country may be added to the list if

“(a) there is in general … no serious risk of persecution” there for nationals of that country,

“and (b) removal … of nationals of that” country

“will not in general contravene the United Kingdom’s obligations under the”

European Convention on Human Rights.

We do not draw conclusions on the general safety of a country based on information from single sources or isolated examples. Whether a country is safe for the purposes of inclusion in Section 80AA(1) is an assessment of whether the country in general is considered safe. Our assessments of the situation in the respective countries are set out in the relevant country policy and information notes, which I will come back to in more detail. Those are available on the GOV.UK website and are kept under constant review and updated periodically.

To tackle unfounded and unnecessary protection and human rights claims from people in safe countries, we have considered whether any further additions to the Section 80AA(1) list should be made, focusing on countries in which we have seen an increase in the volumes of asylum intake. For this reason, consideration was given to both Georgia and India. We have reviewed and considered a wide range of relevant and reliable information and evidence on both Georgia and India, including consideration of their respect for the rule of law and human rights. To answer the question of the noble Lord, Lord Scriven, I say that this included consideration of relevant case law, information from academia, reputable domestic and international media outlets, national and international organisations including from human rights organisations, and information from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office, and other western Governments where appropriate. We are satisfied that both Georgia and India meet the criteria to be considered generally safe. It is considered appropriate to add these countries to the Section 80AA(1) list of countries of origin.