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November 2002, Volume 9, Number 11

UK: Asylum; Ireland

Britain in October 2002 announced that the 10 states expected to join the EU in 2004, including Poland and the Czech Republic, are presumed to be "safe;" nationals of these countries who apply for asylum will be assumed to have filed false claims, and will have limited appeal rights. The Conservatives announced a similar policy in 1995, but it was ended by Labour in 1998. The Labour government is now reviving it and bringing back another conservative policy, namely that no benefits are paid to foreigners who apply for asylum from inside the UK unless they demonstrate, with income and other data, that they are eligible, as with British applicants for income support. They must also spell out their circumstances, route of entry and method of arrival into Britain.

The High Court in October 2002 ruled that the government could station immigration inspectors in Prague's airport: a suit was filed arguing that the pre-clearance inspections led to discrimination against Roma. The court said the government could "take steps to prevent a would-be or potential refugee from approaching its border in order to be in a position to claim asylum."

In October 2002, the Court of Appeal overturned a July 2002 ruling by an immigration tribunal that said an anti-terrorism law that allowed the indefinite detention of non-British citizens suspected of terrorism violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

The Labour government wants to reduce the number of asylum seekers given "exceptional leave to remain." Their number rose from 3,115 in 1997 to 19,845 in 2001; asylum applicants from Afghanistan, Liberia, Libya and Somalia will no longer be given automatic exceptional leave to remain.

The new restrictive measures, to go into effect April 1, 2003, are being added to the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill, which is in its final stages of going through Parliament. The goal is to reduce the L1 billion ($1.5 billion) spent on asylum seekers.

The UK has created Mobil Detection Units, based in Dover, that will use the latest heat sensor equipment to uncover illegal immigrants in cars, truck and trains. The units, which should start operating in March 2003, will work with police in European nations to detect planned smuggling activity. The plan has drawn criticism from pro-asylum supporters who believe genuine applicants will be stopped by the mobile units.

Despite the government's opposition, the National Coalition of Anti-deportation Campaigns received a £340,000 grant from the national lottery's Community Fund, which controls grants to good causes. The coalition calls for radical change to Britain's immigration laws. In October, 2002, debate raged in the UK about how the lottery funding is allocated, and hate mail was being sent to the Community Fund's London office.

The Labour government is proposing a quota-based guest worker program to allow hotels and restaurants and food manufacturers to employ workers from abroad for a short period for low-skilled work in areas where there are recruitment problems.

Health. The British Medical Association says that asylum seekers' health often worsens after they arrive in the UK. The report by the British Medical Association Board of Science and Education is demanding that the government invest funding and develop policies to safeguard asylum seekers' health.

Asylum seekers may be suffering from diseases such as tuberculosis, hepatitis or HIV/Aids. They also face a number of problems such as lack of translation service, documents only available in English or Welsh, and with continuity of care.

Ireland. As a result of a 1989 decision by the Irish Supreme Court, the so-called Fajujonu decision, foreigners with Irish-born children have generally not been deported. The court ruled that migrant parents from Nigeria and Morocco who had been in Ireland for about seven years could remain there because their Irish child had the right to the "care, company and parentage" of its parents.

Article 2 of the Irish Constitution, as amended following the 1998 referendum on the Belfast Agreement, grants Irish citizenship to children born in Ireland.

During the 1990s, the number of asylum applications increased, and more failed asylum seekers applied to remain under the Fajujonu criterion. In October 2002, the Supreme Court heard a case involving a Czech family and a Nigerian that asked to have deportation orders against them vacated on the grounds that they had Irish citizens within the family. Both cases involve foreigners whose applications for asylum were refused in the UK, and who have been in Ireland for one year; both are appealing an order to return them to the UK.

Alan Travis, "MPs reject Blunkett's asylum white list," Guardian, October 24, 2002. Nuala Haughey, "Families to begin crucial case against deportation," Irish Times, October 22, 2002. "Asylum seekers 'get sicker in UK,'" BBC News, October 23, 2002.Chris Johnston, "Lotto fund 'cannot stop' asylum grant," The Times of London, October 21, 2002. Gaby Hinsliff, "Bid to defuse lottery row," The Observer, October 20, 2002. George Jones, "New rules to stop economic refugees," Daily Telegraph, October 7, 2002.