HC Deb 25 January 1973 vol 849 cc630-1
21. Mr. Bottomley

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will now amend existing regulations to permit Uganda stateless persons to join their families and dependants at present in camps in Great Britain.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Mark Carlisle)

The Government made it clear from the outset that, while we accepted our responsibility for United Kingdom passport holders and their dependants, responsibility for others from Uganda was a matter for the international community as a whole. We fully recognise that this is a distressing human problem and my right hon. Friend is in close touch with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees about it.

Mr. Bottomley

Is the Minister aware that, apart from the inhumanity which results from divided families, many of these stateless Asians are the breadwinners for the family and that without them their families will be compelled to stay in the camps for a long time and be dependent on the social services?

Mr. Carlisle

I am aware of the situation to which the right hon. Gentleman refers and the position of breadwinners. We are anxious to do what we can to speed up the process of resettlement and the reunion of these families.

Mr. Redmond

Although the whole Ugandan Asian episode caused by the racialist Amin is most distressing and appalling, will my hon. and learned Friend understand that we feel that this country has done its best and that we cannot take in more immigrants until the existing immigrants have been properly absorbed?

Mr. Carlisle

I am conscious of what my hon. Friend says. We have taken in just over 26,000 United Kingdom passport holders and their dependants from Uganda since the Government of Uganda expelled them. I agree with my hon. Friend that we have nobly carried out our responsibility to them. I equally agree with him that, much as we may sympathise with members of split families, we have to look at this situation carefully in relation to its overall effect.

Mrs. Shirley Williams

We certainly appreciate the noble rôle that Britain has played. We are here talking about 300 people out of 26,000. While we fully recognise that the Government should not take in all and sundry, regardless of what papers they hold, could not the Minister use the existing immigration rules which enable him to extend compassion in cases of hardship? Will he consider whether there are questions of hardship here in which the Government could exercise their discretion?

Mr. Carlisle

As the hon. Lady has said, there are about 300 in Europe. My hon. Friend the Under-Secretary of State recently saw the representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in London. My right hon. Friend has extended an invitation to the High Commissioner for Refugees to meet him when he is here towards the end of this month. My right hon. Friend may be in a position to say something after that meeting has taken place.

Mr. Stanbrook

I ask my hon. and learned Friend not to give way on this issue. Whatever obligations we owe to British passport holders, we owe none whatever to aliens.

Mr. Carlisle

I hope I made it clear in what I said to my hon. Friend the Member for Bolton, West (Mr. Redmond) that we are fully conscious of the difficulties of this problem. We are anxious to arrange the earliest possible resettlement and reunion of these families, in conjunction with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. It is for this reason that my right hon. Friend hopes to have an opportunity to meet the High Commissioner when he is over here in the near future.

Mr. Douglas

Will the Minister accept that both sides of the House are grateful for the consideration which his Department gave to reuniting some of the families over the Christmas and New Year period?

Mr. Carlisle

I note what the hon. Gentleman says.