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TRUST AND CONFIDENCE IN OUR NATIONALITY, IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM SYSTEM, BILL PUBLISHED

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Tough new legislation to build confidence in the UK's nationality, ...
Tough new legislation to build confidence in the UK's nationality,

immigration and asylum system was published today by the home

secretary, David Blunkett.

The Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill sets out a comprehensive

range of provisions to deliver an efficient and robust immigration

system.

It would improve the security of UK immigration controls, crack down

on those who try to abuse them, and build the confidence necessary to

head off threats to good race relations and strong social cohesion.

The Bill contains measures which would:

- create a new, well-managed, end-to-end system of induction,

accommodation, reporting and removal centres. It will require

asylum seekers to report regularly and meet stringent residence

conditions or face losing support altogether;

- crack down on illegal working by introducing new powers for

immigration officers to enter businesses to search for illegal

immigrants as part of our crackdown on the sub economy. The

government will also make it easier for employers to comply with

the law's demand on illegal working;

- take forward the new citizenship agenda, so that those who are

granted British nationality learn our languages and have knowledge

of our society;

- tackle fraud by requiring public authorities, employers and banks

to share information about suspected illegal entrants with the

immigration and nationality directorate, building on the end-to-end

anti-fraud audit now taking place;

- introduce a new 'right to carry' scheme, where carriers such as

airlines would have to obtain clearance for passengers at the point

of departure. In time, this will enable the immigration service,

using high-tech physical recognition equipment, to target

individuals who could pose a security threat, and immigration

offenders before they set out for the UK;

- streamline the appeals process to ensure applicants and their

advocates have less opportunity to delay cases and obstruct

removal of those who have failed in their claim;

- increase the penalty for facilitating illegal entry from 10 to 14

years, an indication that this offence is taken as seriously as

drug smuggling;

- tackle human trafficking by closing loopholes that allow foreign

nationals or people from the EU to be brought in or out of the UK

for sexual exploitation;

- make it an offence to unlawfully possess immigration stamps or

falsify asylum application registration cards (ARC).

The Bill takes forward the plans to reform the entire asylum and

immigration system set out in the recent white paper, Secure Borders

Safe Haven, to aid those genuinely fleeing persecution and to ensure

that the UK has the skills it needs for our economy to flourish.

The home secretary, David Blunkett, said:

'I am determined to put in place a nationality, immigration and

asylum system which is clear, robust and workable. Only then can we

build the trust and confidence necessary to deal with any threats to

good race relations and prevent a breakdown in social cohesion.

'Our asylum process must be efficient, fast and trusted by the

British people. This is not about creating 'fortress Britain'. We

are an open, trading nation, and we will continue to meet our

obligations, along with the rest of the international community, to

provide a safe haven to people fleeing persecution. But we will not

be seen as a soft touch.

'We know that unscrupulous individuals attempt to defraud and abuse

the system. Traffickers and people smugglers are well organised in

criminal gangs. I am determined to tackle these gangs, and root out

abuse, abuse which wastes taxpayers' money and clogs the system for

genuine refugees. At the same time, government has a responsibility

to run an efficient and effective system.

'We have a responsibility to asylum seekers, to consider their

claims fairly and quickly and to support them during the process,

but they in turn have a responsibility toward us. And those seeking

nationality will be expected to learn our languages, to understand

the workings of our society and to take a new citizenship pledge.

'I am equally determined that would-be illegal immigrants get the

message that we are tightening our rules and deploying every possible

measure to deter and to detect them.'

The home secretary also said that he would bring forward further

amendments to the Bill, to tackle the problem of 'benefit shopping'.

This is a new problem involving people who come to the UK and claim

support from local authorities when they have already been granted

refugee status or leave to remain in other European Economic Area

states. These people usually fail the Habitual Residence Test, which

prevents people claiming social security benefits unless they have

been resident in the UK for three months, but they then turn to local

authorities for assistance. Powers will be taken to stop this

happening and guidance issued to local authorities to ensure that the

law is applied consistently.

In addition, a targeted operation, 'Operation Hornet', using new

'Borderguard' technology, is being set up to detect forged documents

at Dover, and to stop deceptive asylum claims being made in the UK by

people who have entered with legitimate papers. Again, these are

often claimants who already have refugee or leave to remain status

somewhere else in the European Economic Area. The Immigration Service

will prosecute those against whom there is evidence of fraud and

deception.

The home secretary and the lord chancellor also announced that new

measures to reform both the appeals system and judicial scrutiny of

asylum decisions would be brought forward following consultation with

the senior judiciary. These amendments will speed up the appeals

system and tackle abuse of judicial review.

The home secretary added:

'We will be bringing forward amendments to the appeals and review

system to ensure that claims are dealt with more rapidly, and to stop

people spinning out cases without merit. This is a highly technical

area which I am determined should be legally watertight and command

the confidence of the public as well as the judiciary. That is why we

will be bringing forward amendments during the course of the Bill's

passage through parliament.'

The lord chancellor, Lord Irvine said:

'I am committed to ending the abuse of the asylum appeals system, and

ensuring judicial review is not undermined by meritless applications

being made to cause delays. The home secretary and I are working

closely together to bring forward measures in the Bill which will

address these concerns. It is very important that we have a properly

functioning system of asylum appeals and judicial scrutiny of asylum

decisions.'

The provisions in the Bill include:

Tracking and supporting asylum seekers during the claims process:

- Introducing a new trial of accommodation centres, with basic

services provided on-site, and a comprehensive induction programme

to advise applicants of their rights and responsibilities and

explain what will happen to them during their claim process.

- Asylum seekers living in the community will be required to report

regularly or lose all government support.

- Tightening of the appeals process to stop abuse and delay:

- Simplifying the one-stop appeals process.

- Introducing a closure date to stop multiple time-wasting

adjournments to draw out the appeals process unnecessarily at the

adjudicator stage.

- Stopping appeals against removal directions, and stopping people

delaying removal by simply claiming they have another country to go

to without providing any evidence.

- Narrowing the grounds of appeal to the Immigration Appeals

Tribunal to points of law only.

Tackling illegal working, traffickers and racketeers:

- Strengthening the law by increasing the penalty for facilitating

illegal entry from 10 to 14 years.

- Introducing a new offence of trafficking people into, within or

through the UK for the purposes of prostitution, with a tough

penalty of 14 years imprisonment, to clamp down on the exploitation

of vulnerable people.

- Clamping down on illegal working, by giving immigration officers

powers to enter business premises to search and arrest immigration

offenders where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting such an

offender is on the premises. Employers would not to be able to

refuse immigration officers entry onto business premises.

- Introducing new fraud offences making it illegal to unlawfully

possess an immigration stamp or falsify an ARC card.

New border control measures:

The Bill would introduce powers to ensure immigration controls are

sufficiently robust to exclude individuals who are an immigration or

security risk, but that are sufficiently efficient, flexible and

responsive to allow the high number of legitimate passengers to the

UK to pass through quickly. They include:

- Introducing 'right to carry' schemes for airlines, so that

carriers wouldhave to obtain confirmation that passengers posed no

known security or immigration risk before they embark for the UK.

- The use of physical or 'biometric' data such as facial or iris

recognition to verify the identity of people arriving in the UK.

The process will also help automate immigration controls, speed

passengers through, and release valuable immigration resources to

other, higher risk areas of work.

Scottish secretary, Helen Liddell, commented:

'In Scotland there are currently around 6,000 asylum seekers being

given support. The Scots have a long tradition of playing host to

people from many other countries and cultures.

'We should welcome the skills and positive attitudes that immigration

introduces, and must ensure that every new resident is made a valued

member of our society. This Bill should help achieve that goal. Its

provisions will apply equally in Scotland as in the rest of the UK.

'The Scotland office will continue to work in partnership with the

Scottish executive and the home office, along with other agencies and

support groups, to create a fair, decent and comprehensive system for

dealing with all those who arrive in this country whether as

immigrants or seeking refuge and protection.'

Welcoming the Bill, the secretary of state for Wales, Paul Murphy,

said:

'Wales has a rich cultural diversity and has welcomed a great many

people from different parts of the world over the years.

'The Wales office and the national assembly for Wales have

contributed to the consultation process behind this Bill and have

ensured that the Welsh view has been taken into account in

policy-making.

'The Bill offers genuine reform of nationality, immigration and

asylum policies which will benefit Wales and the UK as a whole.

'I am particularly pleased that the home office has paid special

regard to the Welsh language and to those services which have been

devolved from Westminster to Cardiff.'

Notes:

1. The recent white paper, Secure Borders Safe Haven, was published

on 7 February 2002.

2. The government will consider retaining certification of cases that

do not merit full appeal rights, and is looking at the introduction

of a statutory review process to replace existing judicial review of

refusals to grant leave to appeal by the immigration appeal tribunal,

and of certification decisions. The government is also looking at

whether a single tier appeals system would produce an overall

speedier resolution of asylum claims. The government is considering

whether to introduce these measures in the Bill.

NATIONALITY IMMIGRATION AND ASYLUM BILL,

A SUMMARY

Background

The government's white paper, 'Secure Borders, Safe Haven:

Integration with Diversity in Modern Britain' - was published on

7 February 2002 and provides the background to the Bill.

The Bill is in eight parts and touches on all areas of the

nationality, immigration and asylum system:

Part one - Nationality

The Bill contains provisions which amend British Nationality

legislation, primarily the British Nationality Act 1981, with the

main aim of enhancing the importance of acquiring British

citizenship. They include:

- introduction of citizenship ceremonies, together with a

citizenship pledge;

- requirement for those who apply for naturalisation as a British

citizen to have sufficient knowledge of United Kingdom society;

- removal of existing provisions which allow discrimination on the

grounds of sex, nationality, ethnic or national origin in the

exercise of nationality functions;

- removal of the present distinctions in nationality law between

legitimate and illegitimate children;

- removal of minimum age requirement for applications for

registration by stateless children born in the UK and the British

overseas territories; and

- amendment of the grounds for deprivation of citizenship, with

provision of a new right of appeal against deprivation.

Part two - Accommodation Centres

The Bill makes provision for the introduction of accommodation

centres, built or adapted to accommodate and provide services for a

number of asylum-seekers and their dependants on one site. The

centres will be introduced on a trial basis. The centres may provide

for a number of facilities and services, including: food and other

essential items; money; assistance with transport and expenses to

pursue purposeful activities; legal services; healthcare and

education and training.

Residents of the centres will be subject to conditions of residence.

Those who refuse the offer of a place, or voluntarily cease to reside

may forego their right to support.

Part three - Other Support and Assistance

Maintaining contact with asylum-seekers is essential and

the new asylum system will be based on a network of

induction, accommodation and reporting centres as well as

existing national asylum support service accommodation.

The Bill contains provisions that:

- link the provision of support to asylum-seekers with a

requirement to report;

- allow the home office to fund the voluntary assisted return

programme. This programme is a means by which we provide assistance

to asylum-seekers who wish to return home; and

- allow the home office to fund international projects. Examples of

international projects that may be funded under this power include

resettlement and the 'interception assisted return programmes'. In

addition this provision enables the home office to fund research

projects, and organisations and bodies that carry out this work.

Part four - Detention and Removal

The Bill contains a number of measures designed to simplify the

process of contact management, detention and removal of those who

have no right to stay in the UK. These include:

- requiring asylum-seekers to reside for up to 14 days at a

location at or near a place where an induction programme is to be

conducted;

- a power to impose reporting and residence restrictions on

asylum-seekers with leave to enter or remain;

- giving detainee custody officers acting as escorts a limited

power to enter private premises to search persons being taken into

detention;

- giving the secretary of state an equivalent power to detain or

grant bail to that of immigration officers;

- the power to remove children born in the UK, where their parents

entered the UK unlawfully; and

- the power to remove those who attempt to obtain permission to

stay by using deception.

Part five, Immigration and Asylum Appeals

The Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 introduced a one-stop appeal

requiring an adjudicator considering an immigration appeal to deal

with any other appealable matters raised by the applicant at the same

time. The provisions in the Bill aim to re-structure the appeals

system to simplify and streamline the one-stop appeal provisions and

would:

- define the specific immigration decisions which attract a right

of appeal;

- make clear that removal directions, which are an administrative

decision flowing from an earlier refusal decision which is itself

appealable, will not be one of the immigration decisions which

attract a right of appeal;

- ensure that we can certify cases where a failed asylum-seeker

has had the opportunity to appeal but has chosen not to do so;

- provide for the introduction of the power to set a statutory

closure date to prevent multiple adjournments of cases at the

adjudicator stage and

- narrow the grounds of appeal to the immigration appeals tribunal

to a point of law.

Part six, Immigration Procedure

This Part of the Bill contains provisions to:

- allow a fee to be set for work permit applications;

- allow the introduction of an Authority to Carry ('ATC') scheme

which provides for regulations to require carriers to check the

details of passengers against a database to confirm that they pose

no known immigration or security risk;

- powers to introduce a scheme to require physical data, such as

iris or facial images, to accompany applications to enter or stay

in the United Kingdom, and to introduce voluntarily scheme for

those arriving in the UK; and

- require public authorities, such as local authorities, and

private persons, such as employers, to disclose information to the

Secretary of State for immigration and nationality purposes.

Part seven - Offences

Provisions have been included that introduce a number of

criminal offences:

- strengthening the law by increasing the penalty for facilitating

illegal entry from 10 to 14 years;

- trafficking of people into, out of, or within the UK for the

purpose of sexual exploitation;

- forgery and similar activities relating to the new Application

Registration Card;

- possession of an immigration stamp, whether genuine or a replica,

without a lawful excuse; and

- a provision which gives police and immigration officers a right

of entry to business premises, at reasonable times, to search for

and arrest immigration offenders.

Part eight, General provisions

The final section of the Bill contains provisions on the

making of subordinate legislation, interpretation,

amendment of applied provisions, expenditure and

receipts, the title of the Bill, repeals, commencement

and extent.

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