HL Deb 26 June 1974 vol 352 cc1467-9

My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will instruct the High Commissioner in Zambia to visit the 40 British citizens formerly resident in Rhodesia, who are detained in Lusaka prison, with a view to granting them entry certificates to come to the United Kingdom as political refugees.


My Lords, Consular officers in Lusaka have visited these men on several occasions. We are looking urgently at ways of helping them.


My Lords, the House will be very pleased to learn that Consular officers have visited these men in detention, because for some time after they arrived in Lusaka and were detained in prison there they were not visited by anybody. Does the Minister not think that general rules should be evolved by the Foreign Office to deal with these cases of refugees from the réegime in Rhodesia who arrive in independent African countries neighbouring Rhodesia and that instructions should be sent to the High Commissioners in all these countries that they should look after the welfare of these people and take steps to facilitate their onward travel to other countries?


My Lords, I do not dissent in any way from what the noble Lord has said. However, instructions are one thing; access is quite another. The Zambian authorities only granted regular Consular access to these men in December, 1973. The Consular officer at our High Commission in Lusaka was allowed then to visit Livingstone Central Prison and, as I have said, regular visits have been made. We try to achieve a consistent policy in formulating these matters. It rests upon our expressing immediate concern when a British citizen is detained without trial and we take it from there. That is the basis of our approach in every case.


My Lords, further to that answer, may I ask the Minister what the policy is regarding the issuing of British passports to such persons who escape from Rhodesia into neighbouring countries so that they can travel to other countries?


My Lords, in this case the first step is for a man to establish Rhodesian citizenship. We have assisted in this matter by endeavouring, against a background of some difficulty in Rhodesia, to help them to obtain the necessary documentation, and 19 of the 42 have so far succeeded. We are continuing with our efforts. Thereafter there are agreed criteria—agreed, I think, by all Parties in the House—as to entry. There are conditions of entry which in one case may be satisfied by one criterion and in another by another criterion. It is a complicated matter involving more than one Government Department, and we try to look at every case on its merits to see whether we can fit that case into one of the entitlement criteria.


My Lords, I fail to understand why we have not been furnished with an explanation of why these refugees are being detained. Can the noble Lord give the information now?


My Lords, I understand that these were men who belonged to Z.A.P.U. who crossed into Zambia and declared their defection from Z.A.P.U., whereupon Zambia decided to intern them.