HC Deb 31 March 1983 vol 40 cc459-60
16. Sir John Biggs-Davison

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the present policy of Her Majesty's Government towards applications to reside and work in the United Kingdom by those who have left their native countries for political reasons.

Mr. Waddington

To admit for asylum here those qualifying under the provisions of the 1951 refugee convention; to consider carefully applications in other cases for exceptional treatment outside the immigration rules, but not to regard an individual's dissatisfaction with political or economic conditions in his own country as by itself justifying admission to the United Kingdom.

Sir John Biggs-Davison

Partly because of the admittedly very different Romanian case, is there not new apprehension, particularly in the Polish community, that those who have political asylum might be required to return home while persecution and oppression still exist there? Will my hon. and learned Friend reassure those concerned?

Mr. Waddington

Of course no Pole who has been granted political asylum could possibly be returned home. My hon. Friend clearly is referring to those many other Poles who, since the introduction of martial law, have been given exceptional leave to remain in Britain.

I hope that the Polish community recognises that the Government have shown generosity. They should take comfort from that generosity. Only recently we announced that those who were here at the time of martial law and those who came here before my right hon. Friend's statement on 9 March will be able to apply for leave to stay another 12 months. If the situation in Poland has not improved at the end of that 12 months we shall again consider their cases most sympathetically.

Mr. Grimond

Is the Minister aware that, in spite of what the Home Office has said, there is still widespread concern and even disgust about the treatment of this wretched Romanian? Will the Government review their policy? Political refugees have been of great service to this country and there would be comparatively few even if they were all let in. Is the Minister aware that there is considerable anxiety that if they are not let in these wretched working men who come to this country will be sent back to Romania to face their fate?

Mr. Waddington

I appreciate the right hon. Gentleman's concern. I know that that concern has been shared by many people. We try our best to apply sympathetically and fairly the criteria laid down in the United Nations convention for the treatment of refugees. There would be grave risks if we ignored those criteria in a commendable wish to help others. The whole process of political asylum could be devalued.

We simply cannot proceed on the assumption that anybody who comes to this country from eastern Europe has the right to asylum here just because if he returned to his own country he might suffer penalties. If we followed that policy we would give a contingent right of asylum to every citizen from every country behind the iron curtain.