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March 1996, Volume 3, Number 3

BritainMore Safe Countries

The controversial Asylum and Immigration Bill passed 280 to 250 on February 22, 1996 in the House of Commons. The bill will now be considered by the House of Lords. Britain may add to its "white list" of nations deemed safe from political persecution Ethiopia, Tanzania and Kenya--some 3,000 nationals of these countries applied for asylum in the UK in 1995.

The current list of safe countries includes Bulgaria, Cyprus, India, Ghana, Pakistan, Poland and Romania. Nationals of safe countries can apply for asylum in the UK, but the burden of proof is on them to show that, contrary to the general absence of political persecution, in this case, the applicant was persecuted.

New regulations went into effect on February 5, 1996 that require applicants for asylum to apply at the port of entry if they want to obtain welfare benefits. Applicants whose claims are rejected are not allowed to collect benefits during the appeal.

However, posters in English, Turkish, French and Spanish warning refugees at Heathrow Airport that they must immediately register or risk being deported have been banned by the British Airports Authority as "too political."

A judge prevented the implementation of the welfare ban--there will now be a trial on its legality. Another court will decide in mid-February whether the British government should be prevented from enforcing the regulations. The government argues that the burden of proof is on asylum applicants to prove that they deserve refugee status and welfare benefits.

In a related ruling, a Court of Appeal ruled that the Westminster housing authority is under a statutory duty to house nationals from other EU countries who entered the UK lawfully to work, have not been told to leave, and who are now unemployed and homeless. The ruling is expected to be appealed to the House of Lords.

Saudi dissident Mohammed al-Masari argued before an immigration appeals court on February 23, 1996 that his life would be in greater risk in Dominica, where the British government plans to deport him, than in Britain.

The island nation of Dominica has acknowledged that it agreed to accept the Saudi dissident in exchange for financial aid and a guaranteed market for its bananas.

The number of British unions has fallen from about 500 in the mid-1970s to 250 in 1995, and the number of union members fell from a peak 13.5 million in 1979 to about nine million today. Unions are strongest in Britain's public sector--62 percent of public employees in the UK are union members, versus 23 percent of private employees.

The Conservatives, who have governed the UK since 1979, enacted laws that e.g., required secret postal ballots before unions could call strikes, outlawed secondary strikes in one company to put pressure on another company, and ended closed shops, which required workers to be union members before working in certain workplaces. These laws are likely to remain in place if Labour comes to power in the next election, but British unions hope that a new government, plus EU labor legislation, will require employers to formally adopt workplace representation plans.

Heather Mills, "Dominica owns up to aid lure in Masari case," The Independent, February 23, 1996. Dandah Saadawo, "UK immigration court hears Saudi's appeal," UPI, February 23, 1996. Paul Magrath, "Council must house unemployed EU migrants," Independent, February 23, 1996. Alison Little, "Parliament backs controversial asylum bill," Agence France Presse, February 22, 1996. "Britain may add Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania to "white list" report, Agence France Presse, February 8, 1996. "Trade unions suffer relentless decline," Financial Times, February 8, 1996; Paul Eastham, "Judge's threat to asylum cash clamps," Daily Mail, February 6, 1996. John Deane, "Government Warned on Illegal Workers," Press Association Newsfile, February 6, 1996. Ros Coward, "Wiping Out the INS of the Fathers," The Guardian, February 5, 1996. John Aston, "Asylum Seekers' Benefits: Lilley Faces Legal Challenge, Press Association Newsfile, February 5, 1996. Owen Bowcott, " Bans Airport Posters Offering Advice to Refugees," The Guardian, Febr