HC Deb 24 February 2003 vol 400 c17
9. Bob Russell (Colchester)

How many Polish citizens are due to be deported prior to the planned date for Poland's accession to membership of the European Union. [98765]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Hilary Benn)

The number of Polish citizens we remove will be determined principally by the number who are refused entry or are found to be here in breach of our immigration laws.

Bob Russell

From that answer, I suggest that the number will be very small. With Poland about to join the European Union, may I point out that it is a waste of time and money to uproot people who could legally return to this country in a year or two's time? In particular, why pick on a 63-year-old Polish-born widow, Mrs. Maria Puchrowicz, who lives in my constituency? Have we really got to the stage of deporting 63-year-old widows?

Hilary Benn

I am not aware of the case that the hon. Gentleman raises, although I will gladly look into it. The answer to his substantive point is that we need to maintain the integrity of the asylum system. He is not correct to assume that the number removed has been very small. Since April 2002, 848 failed Polish asylum seekers have been removed on scheduled flights. On 14 January, 34 were removed using a charter flight. About the same number again of non-asylum removals have occurred as a result of enforcement action. In addition, 8,700 Polish nationals were refused entry to the country in 2001 and subsequently removed.

Keith Vaz (Leicester, East)

The Minister will know that our Government's position is much more honourable than that of the German Government as far as Polish citizenship is concerned once Poland joins the European Union. Given the pressure on the immigration and nationality directorate, which is obvious from questions asked by hon. Members on both sides of the House, surely it would be sensible, in view of the fact that Poland will join on 1 May next year, to hold back on the removals until it is a full member. Is that not the most sensible and cost-effective means of dealing with the problem?

Hilary Benn

I disagree with my hon. Friend for the simple reason that maintaining the integrity of the asylum system is the right approach for the reasons that I outlined, notwithstanding the fact that Poland will join the European Union on 1 May 2004.