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India’s inclusion in safe states list to deter asylum seekers questioned

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A House of Lords committee responsible for scrutinising bills presented in Parliament has expressed apprehension regarding the inclusion of India in the UK’s extended list of safe states which would prevent individuals from India entering the country illegally from seeking asylum.

The cross-party House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee considered the draft Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 (Amendment of List of Safe States) Regulations 2024 and in a report released on Friday (1) questioned the lack of key information on a policy intended to tackle “unfounded” human rights claims.

It follows former home secretary Suella Braverman tabling the draft regulations in the House of Commons earlier this month after having “rigorously assessed” that India, as well as Georgia, are deemed safe states to be added to the list.

“More generally, we observe that there is scope for different points of view on whether India and Georgia are ‘safe states’, based on their human rights records,” said Baroness Angela Harris, a Liberal Democrat peer on the committee.

“The Home Office has also not provided any clarity on whether the significant backlog of existing asylum claims from nationals of these countries will continue to be processed as previously or will be deemed inadmissible retrospectively. Overall, we found the explanatory material laid with the draft Regulations did not provide a clear enough picture of how they would be implemented in practice,” she said.

The committee’s report notes that a submission it received suggests that human rights abuses in both India and Georgia may be “significant and widespread” and that the UK Home Secretary, now James Cleverly since the sacking of Braverman, may need to be questioned on how the Home Office arrived at the conclusion to add the two countries to an expanded list.

The amendment draft, which would need the consent of both Houses to be passed into law, would mean that any asylum or human rights claim made by a national from India or Georgia must be declared inadmissible, unless “exceptional circumstances” apply.

“In the case of these draft regulations, the guidance on ‘exceptional circumstances’ is so critical to their operation that effective scrutiny is impossible without understanding how this aspect will work,” stressed Baroness Harris.

In conclusion, the committee’s report draws the draft to the special attention of Parliament and suggests that it can only scrutinise them properly if the guidance is published before the debate on them takes place.

At the time of the announcement, the Home Office had noted that the proposal will undergo parliamentary scrutiny in the usual way via debates in both Houses of Parliament before it comes into force.

It described the measure as being in line with steps to meet Rishi Sunak’s pledge to “stop the boats” of migrants landing on the country’s shores illegally after making precarious journeys across the English Channel.

According to the Home Office, Indian and Georgian small boat arrivals have increased over the last year despite individuals from these countries not being at obvious risk of persecution.

(PTI)

 

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