The vast majority of Sri Lankans now coming to the UK and who seek asylum are not refugees

refugee centreSpeaking at the House of Lords on 20 November Lord Naseby said that it is time for a review of the cases from Sri Lanka and recognition that the vast majority of those now coming here who seek asylum are certainly not refugees. The Sri Lankan economy is doing well and life is quiet—there are no bombs or anything else—so most of those must be refused, but sadly at the moment that is not happening.

Lord Naseby in his speech said “With the leave of the House, I shall turn for a second to the bigger scene. Overnight I did a bit of work on the numbers and types of people involved. I draw attention to the figures from Eurostat that I cut out about a fortnight ago from the Financial Times. The one fact that sprang out to me from that article was that the UK today is the most generous acceptor of non-EU immigration. We took 30.2% of the share of the 2.4 million residence permits. That is a huge number, so the background is that we are not usually restrictive but we are understanding and generous. That is welcome, but the immigrants have to be genuine, and for me that is the key determinant.”

Members of the House will know that I take a particular interest in Sri Lanka so last night I asked for Sri Lankan figures for three years. I asked for the figures for 2003, which was a time when the war was going on, but not with any great pressure, and peace negotiations were in progress. At that time the UK received 705 applications, granted 117 and refused 1,355 because the Home Office found that the vast majority of these people were economic migrants.

For 2008, at the height of the war, I expected to see—understandably—a very high figure. There were 1,473 applications, 206 grants and 668 refusals. I also asked for the figure for 2013. There is peace now so that if you are a Tamil you can go to the north as much as you like and you can work where you like without particular permission. I was amazed to discover that, in contrast to the figure of 2008 when the war was at is height—1,473—in 2013, 1,811 people from Sri Lanka came here seeking asylum.

The Home Office does not break this down into whether they are Muslims or Tamils or Sinhalese, but my guess is that they are Tamils. I am surprised because I asked our British High Commission the other week about those that had been returned. It has a scheme whereby if you are returned as a refused asylum seeker you can ring up the British High Commission on a secret line and complain or ask for help. It has not had a single returned asylum seeker who has complained. I checked with the Australian High Commission because it has a similar scheme. It has had well over 1,000 Tamils come back from Australia with only one complaint. I am therefore led to believe that the vast majority of these people now—looking at the figures, their number equates to nearly a quarter of the refusals—are here seeking economic migrant status. Frankly, it is time for Her Majesty’s Government to look more closely at exactly what is happening on the ground in Sri Lanka as opposed to what they are being told is happening by the British Tamils Forum and other pressure groups. I use that as a particular example as it is one about which I know something in depth.

I conclude by once again thanking my noble friend for putting this on the agenda. I have looked at the scheme as far as I can in the time available and I think it is basically fine. It needs some fine-tuning and I hope the Minister will take it away and have a look at the areas that can and should be fine-tuned. There are two other aspects. Noble Lords have all made the point that there is something wrong when asylum seekers have been here for more than two years. Somehow we have to resolve that problem. I cannot pretend to know how it can be resolved but, specifically, now that I have looked at the evidence supplied by the Home Office on the Sri Lankan figures, it is time for a review of the cases from Sri Lanka and recognition that the vast majority of those now coming here who seek asylum are certainly not refugees. The Sri Lankan economy is doing well and life is quiet—there are no bombs or anything else—so most of those must be refused, but sadly at the moment that is not happening. (parliament.uk)

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