HL Deb 24 July 1981 vol 423 cc473-5
Lord Brockway

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether the 2,000 Cypriots remaining in this country (of those forced to leave their homes in the north by the Turkish invasion of 1974) will now be given full refugee status including permission to stay in this country until they can return to their homes.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Home Office (Lord Belstead)

My Lords, the immigration rules have been applied flexibly and with sympathy to those Cypriots who came here as a result of the hostilities in 1974 and it remains the Government's policy that a person's stay here will be extended exceptionally if it appears that the situation in the island makes it unreasonable to expect him to return there. The situation is not covered by the 1951 convention relating to the status of refugees and the grant of refugee status would therefore be inappropriate.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, is it not the case that many of these refugees have been returned against their will to the southern area of Cyprus and that families have been broken up as a consequence? In view of the fact that this Government are a guarantor of the integrity of the whole of Cyprus, can permanent residence not be allowed to these refugees until they have the right to go back to their own homes?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, it has been the policy under both the previous Government and the present Government that those who have come to this country from Cyprus because of the situation in the island should be granted stay here exceptionally under the immigration rules. Arising from what the noble Lord asked at the beginning of his supplementary, my understanding is that no Greek Cypriot is expected to return to that part of the island now controlled by the Turkish authorities. Similarly, Turkish Cypriots will not be returned to the Greek controlled area. However, the convention, which is the whole point of the noble Lord's Question, does not apply.

Lord Harmar-Nicholls

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that any reasonable person would recognise the lack of wisdom in giving the blanket cover that is asked for in this Question? Certainly individual cases where all the circumstances can be taken into account should be looked at with sympathy and real concern, but a blanket cover is not the kind of thing which this Government or any Government ought to give at this stage.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend. This is the policy which the previous Government followed and which the present Government are following, and I believe it is the right one.

Lord Avebury

My Lords, is the Minister aware that in some cases which I have taken up with his honourable friend Mr. Timothy Raison deportation orders were made against Cypriots many years ago but suspended from operation because of their circumstances back home, and then, years later, were suddenly reactivated because of an alleged change of circumstances without the persons concerned having any right to a re-hearing? Where there is a dispute about the family circumstances in the country of origin, will the Minister have a look at the possibility of referring these cases to the appellate authorities so that the evidence can be properly examined?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if there is any particular case which the noble Lord has in mind, I shall of course make sure that it is looked at carefully and seriously, but I understood from what the noble Lord said that these are cases which have already been looked at.

Lord Molloy

My Lords, does not the noble Lord agree that the technicalities of the law should always be viewed in the light of humanitarian principles, and that where people may have to go back because they are Turkish or Greek Cypriots there ought to be a thorough examination of the circumstances before the ultimate decision is arrived at and they are sent back to a land which, although it is their home, they are frightened to go back to?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, this is exactly the case. In his question I think that the noble Lord, Lord Molloy, has outlined the procedures which are followed at the present time.

Lord Spens

My Lords, can the Minister give an assurance that this policy is accorded also to the 500 or so Turkish Cypriots who were forced out of their homes between 1963 and 1974 and who are now in this country?

Lord Belstead

Yes, my Lords.

Baroness Jeger

My Lords, while I recognise that Governments of neither party have been able to solve this difficult problem, may I ask whether the Minister is aware that his practice of giving extensions in exceptional circumstances causes a lot of strain and anxiety, particularly where education is concerned? In the case of many of the Cypriots who apply for but are refused the exceptional extension it seems that very subjective judgments are brought to bear. Would it not therefore be more fair to look again at the 1951 refugee provisions?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, I do not think that it would be more fair. We have got to be realistic and to take into account that the number of those admitted from the island of Cyprus for all purposes into this country has risen from 16,964 in 1973 to 33,000. So the numbers have doubled in a period of some seven years. We are therefore again talking about an immigration situation which is serious and important. Within this, there is nothing, I think, between us that these particular cases—the people who, after 1974, felt that they had to leave and could not go back—must be dealt with as sympathetically as possible. I should like to add to what I have already said that, in deciding whether a person could reasonably return to the island, full account is always taken of all the circumstances, including, for example, the availability of accommodation and funds and the extent to which relatives have been able to re-establish themselves in Cyprus.

Lord Caradon

My Lords, I wonder whether the attention of the noble Lord has been drawn to a very remarkable and encouraging meeting which took place only a few days ago in London? A mass meeting of Cypriots, both Greek and Turkish, assembled to welcome a declaration which had been made by three editors from the Greek side of Cyprus and three editors from the Turkish side, who had published a call for reconciliation and understanding, and at this meeting, organised by the Friends of Cyprus, 1,000 people, both Greeks and Turks, came together to make a demand that understanding, reconciliation—the purposes of the original treaty—should be carried out.

Lord Belstead

My Lords, this, of course, is an avenue down which, if people can go, there would be a solution to the whole problem which is the subject of the Question tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Brockway.

Lord Brockway

My Lords, while welcoming the intervention of the noble Lord, may I ask this in relation to the Question: is the Minister aware that I have a list of those who have been deported against their will to southern Cyprus, which I shall send to the noble Lord? Is he further aware that at this moment I have a case where the mother of students, who is looking after those students in London, is now being sent back to Cyprus? Will the Minister particularly look at that case?

Lord Belstead

My Lords, if the noble Lord will send me details of the case, I will most certainly make sure that it is looked at carefully and sympathetically.

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