HL Deb 05 November 1992 vol 539 cc1561-72

4.30 p.m.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, with the leave of the House I should like to repeat a Statement on Yugoslav visas which is now being made in another place by my right honourable friend the Home Secretary. The Statement is as follows:

"With permission, Madam Speaker, I will make a Statement about government policy towards nationals of the former Yugoslavia arriving in the United Kingdom.

"The United Kingdom and its European partners have consistently held the view that the objectives of international aid to the former Yugoslavia should be to provide the means and create the confidence for as many people as possible to stay as close to their homes as possible, so that their eventual return remains a clear prospect. Without this, a fair and lasting solution to the political problems will be made very much more difficult.

"But the United Kingdom and its partners have also recognised that for some people this policy will be neither practical nor humane. That is true, for example, of people who have been deeply traumatised by their experience, including men released from detention camps, many of whom have lost contact with their families; people who have been wounded; children who have lost their parents; or families who have lost their fathers.

"It is the view of the Government that we should continue to help these most vulnerable groups of people. I believe that the British people wish to make their humanitarian contribution to ease the sufferings of the innocent victims of the civil war. But at present we are receiving in this country an increasing number of self-selected people from former Yugoslavia, including arrivals from safer parts of the country well away from the war zone. For example, in an analysis of a large sample of those from the former Yugoslavia who have applied for asylum, one third were found to have come from Serbia, where many of them are seeking to escape the effects of economic sanctions.

"Since the beginning of this year the number of former Yugoslav citizens who have applied for asylum in the United Kingdom has increased month by month. Some 2,000 applied in October alone. Over 4,000 former Yugoslav citizens have continued to arrive each month as visitors. Some of these have subsequently made clear their intention to stay on a more permanent basis by applying for local authority housing. In addition, some 15,000 people from other parts of the world have applied for asylum in the United Kingdom since the beginning of the year.

"It is extremely important that the humanitarian efforts which this country wants to make are targeted effectively on those innocent victims of the war who are suffering most. We will only achieve this if we exercise more control and, therefore, organise specific arrangements for the reception of those we most want to help.

"At the moment there is a danger of our receiving uncontrolled numbers of citizens of former Yugoslavia who are able to afford the air fare and random groups organised by well-meaning organisations.

"The United Kingdom is one of the few countries in Europe which has no visa requirement for any of the successor states of the former Yugoslavia. In recent weeks several countries (for example, Germany, Sweden and Denmark) have announced the imposition of visa regimes on parts of the former Yugoslavia. It is now necessary for the United Kingdom to do likewise so that we can control the process of admission and concentrate our efforts on the needy.

"From midnight tomorrow, therefore, with the exception of those holding passports issued by the Governments of Croatia and Slovenia, all nationals of the former Yugoslavia will need to obtain visas before travelling to the United Kingdom for whatever purpose.

"But at the same time the Government will make clear to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross its readiness to receive from Bosnia and other parts of the former Yugoslavia people with special humanitarian needs whom the international organisations judge should be evacuated, including those released from detention camps.

"Numbers and timing will be discussed with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the International Committee of the Red Cross. In the first instance we will be informing the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees that from the coming week end we are ready to receive 150 former detainees and, in due course, any dependants they may have, probably making about 600 in all. The Government will be making suitable arrangements for their reception and initial accommodation and are urgently considering how best they can be looked after in the medium term.

"It is the wish of all European governments and many refugees themselves that those who have fled from the former Yugoslavia should eventually be able to return to their homes in safety. We do not intend, therefore, that those whom we bring to the United Kingdom should make their permanent homes here. But while they are with us we would want to make them as welcome and as comfortable as possible. In the longer term we shall continue to monitor the political situation, with the international agencies, and when the time comes we will be ready to assist the international organisations with the practicalities of returns." My Lords, that concludes the text of my right honourable friend's Statement.

4.35 p.m.

Lord Richard

My Lords, I am shocked and disappointed that the Government have seen fit at such a time, when the former Yugoslavia is still torn by war, to introduce such a restrictive measure. It flies against the spirit of the Geneva Convention on refugees even if technically it does not go against the letter of that convention. There are insufficient exemptions in this measure to protect the rights of those who are fleeing from persecution. I am sure the House will agree that no refugee should have to flee from persecution to face potential prosecution when he or she arrives in this country. That response to the plight of those seeking safety is, frankly, mean spirited, ungenerous and unworthy of a British Government.

Rather than placing further obstacles in the path of those who have escaped from the former Yugoslavia, the Government should be taking every step available to ensure that those fleeing the war should be treated with humanity, that same humanity that the British public has expressed toward those refugees. I am aware that the Government have accepted 5,500 refugees from Yugoslavia. We applaud that compliance with the Geneva Convention. However, when Germany has taken in 220,000, Sweden 67,455 and even over-crowded Austria has taken 57,000, we are bound in honour to feel that they are doing better than we are.

The noble Earl said that certain other countries have introduced such restrictions. That is perfectly true. The House should be aware that Norway, Sweden and Denmark have issued visa restrictions recently. But they are only for Serbia and Montenegro and not for Bosnia. I understand that there is no suggestion from those Scandinavian governments that this restrictive requirement should be imposed upon those fleeing from the war zone in Bosnia itself.

I ask why Croatia and Slovenia are exempt if the objective is to produce some kind of channel down which potential or actual refugees should have to go. There is no logic in saying that we shall treat Yugoslavia in this way if one proceeds to exempt Croatia and Slovenia from the restrictions but impose them on the very part of Yugoslavia which at the moment is in the worst possible state; namely, Bosnia itself.

I am also concerned about the practicalities of this step. What is a Bosnian Moslem fleeing from the war in his country supposed to do to obtain a visa? Is there a British Consulate operating in Sarajevo? I am not aware of it. What do they do? Do they send a letter to Belgrade in the hope that the British Consulate in Belgrade will receive it, look at the application, say, "Yes, you can have your visa" and then post it back to a town which is under continuous shelling by the Serbian Government themselves? When all that has happened will that individual then be entitled to leave Bosnia and try to come to the United Kingdom? It is frankly farcical.

I also ask this question of the Government. If they impose this visa requirement on people fleeing from Bosnia, what effect will that have upon the carriers if those people turn up at Heathrow or any other airport without a visa? At present the carriers are liable to a fine of £2,000 per person if someone arrives without a visa when a visa is a requirement. It is another method of restriction. If a Bosnian refugee who has managed to obtain the air fare seeks to buy a ticket to Great Britain from a British Airways ticket office, once the visa requirement has been imposed in this country the airline will not take him. We have had this argument on other occasions in relation to other parts of the world. However, yet again the Government are using airlines as the first line of immigration restriction and control. It is wrong in principle, but in relation to Bosnia it is frankly appalling.

I am also worried about what happens to children from the former Yugoslavia, many of whom are orphans who have been rescued by mercy missions and so on. What are we to do if those children arrive without visas? Do we send them back or fine the airline? This House is being asked to accept an impossible situation. What special provisions will be made for those children? Many of them did not lose their parents from any carelessness on their part but through detention and torture. Will the Minister assure the House that the Government will not turn away children who arrive in this country from Bosnia without visas, and that they will be housed in a secure environment? We desperately need a statement of intent as regards refugees' housing and other rights which makes clear that their human needs will be met. That is particularly important for children.

Mr. Clarke said in the Second Reading of the asylum Bill on Monday this week that he had every intention of upholding, a long and honourable tradition in the United Kingdom of offering political asylum to those who flee to this country". [Official Report, Commons, 2/11/92; col. 21.] The Statement that we have heard this afternoon hardly accords with those noble words.

With regard to Bosnia, we have a restrictive measure wrapped up in a miasma of verbal compassion, which is unworthy of the Government. The Government should think again about the effect of the proposal in particular with regard to Bosnia.

I read the Statement with great interest. What is a self-selected person? The Statement says: in this country an increasing number of self-selected people from former Yugoslavia, including arrivals from safer parts of the country well away from the war zone". Of course everyone is self-selecting. By our very nature someone fleeing from a war tends to say to himself, "I am selecting myself as a person whom I believe should be away from this war zone and this danger". What is this extraordinary concept of self-selection? Will the Government select by the imposition of the visa requirement?

I ask three questions. First, why impose this requirement on Bosnia? There may be an argument for saying that it could be imposed on Serbia and Montenegro, as the Scandinavian countries have accepted. Why impose the requirement on Bosnia, a part of the former Yugoslavia most directly affected by the effects of the war? Secondly, what arrangements will be made for Bosnian refugees to obtain the visas? There is no point in having a visa requirement unless one can make the practicalities of obtaining a visa sensible and obvious. Thirdly, how on earth do we square this requirement with the proud words and expressions of principle that we occasionally hear from the Government?

4.45 p.m.

Lord Bonham-Carter

My Lords, I too should like to thank the noble Earl for repeating the Statement made by his right honourable friend in another place. I should like to associate myself wholeheartedly with the sentiments expressed by the noble Lord, Lord Richard. I shall not repeat them more than I believe is unavoidable.

The Statement made by the noble Earl is mean-spirited and an inadequate response to a human challenge to which we should respond with generosity and imagination. So far, as the noble Lord, Lord Richard, pointed out, others have done more than we have. It is high time that we did more on behalf of these helpless people who are fleeing from a conflict which we have been singularly ineffective in controlling or stopping. Above all, we should have responded more positively to the appeal of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who pointed out the obvious: that this is a European problem and that it must be shared on a European basis. What steps are the Government taking to act in response to that appeal?

It is not a problem which can be dealt with country by country according to their immediate proximity to the conflict. If we try to do it in that way, it will be a beggar-my-neighbour process in which the victims will be the refugees. It is important that we have an answer to that question.

The imposition of visas is an embargo. The Statement announces that visas have to be acquired as from midnight tomorrow night. As the noble Lord, Lord Richard, asked, who will supply the visas? Who knows where the visas are to be acquired? What is the charge for the visas? How many visas are available? What administrative arrangements have been made?

I wish to associate myself with what the noble Lord, Lord Richard, said about children. Those of us who remember the asylum measure at the end of last summer and who have looked at the present Asylum and Immigration Appeals Bill will see that the arrangements for children in both those measures are totally inadequate. So far as I can see, in this Statement there is absolutely no reference to children whereas we know that very large numbers of children are travelling or escaping from Bosnia alone and without any adult protection.

The questions which have been put to the Minister deserve an answer. The Statement that he made is deeply disappointing. I hope that the Government will think again and act in a more generous and humane spirit.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am sorry that both the noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Bonham-Carter, have found the Statement unwelcome and consider that we are being mean. It was even suggested that we were not keeping up with our international obligations. There is no question of that. If one has any form of immigration control without a visa, the United Kingdom immigration officer must decide whether or not a person who appears is entitled to stay. He will have to apprise himself of certain questions. He will have to satisfy himself that a person seeking entry qualifies for admission under the immigration rules. He will have to satisfy himself, for example, that as a visitor that person can support and accommodate himself without public funds, and that he will be able to return home.

By instituting a visa regime, those criteria will not be applied in this country but in the country of departure. A person will know that he is able to come without finding that he is unacceptable. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, said that such a requirement is being mean and not in accord with our obligations. That is not so. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary stated that we intend to uphold the international obligations. That is perfectly true. A refugee is a person who is persecuted for religious or political reasons. Escaping from a war zone—unpleasant though that is—is not a matter for asylum. The noble Lord, Lord Richard, makes a face of disagreement and anxiety but that is a fact. One talks about international obligations. Where people seek asylum one has to be satisfied that they will be persecuted for religious or political reasons.

In the past people have arrived from areas in Yugoslavia which are not near the war zone. The noble Lord criticised the word "self-selected". Those people who have been able to obtain and pay for an air fare have arrived and stated that they would like to stay here because they find it more agreeable than the area from which they come. But one cannot operate an immigration policy—and there has to be one—on that basis. Therefore, we believe that if we operate a visa regime, those who obtain a visa will know that they can come here and will therefore not be put in a position in which they arrive here and then are not accepted.

The noble Lord asked also whether the barriers against asylum seekers contravene the 1951 convention. Under the convention there is no obligation to facilitate the arrival of asylum seekers. It is unrealistic to expect the United Kingdom to accept an open-ended commitment to admit all asylum seekers who choose to come here. There are places where the visa regime operates and various controls are available. However, at present there are difficulties in what used to be Yugoslavia. There are bases where people can obtain the visas. However, the majority of people who come to this country must first go to another country before they can get a flight to come here. If that is so, then the visas can be obtained from a British Consul in the country from which they must board the aeroplane to come here in the first place.

I understand from my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary that we have three posts in the former Yugoslavia: Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubliana. Those posts are operating under extremely difficult conditions. Belgrade has only a small visa issuing facility and others are mini-missions; for example, Her Majesty's Ambassador and a personal assistant. In Ljubliana the post operates from an hotel. Because of staff and accommodation constraints, Belgrade must limit the types of visa applications which it can accept; for example, medical and compassionate cases, holders of official Yugoslav and Bosnian passports, spouses and those relatives of third country nationals.

The noble Lord, Lord Clinton-Davis, keeps making interjections from a sedentary position. I am merely telling him what the system is and I am also trying to tell your Lordships that those who come here must go to another country before they do so.

The noble Lords, Lord Richard and Lord Bonham-Carter, mentioned children. Children require a visa in the same way as anyone else. If they are brought here without a visa, the carrier is liable for the charge. Obviously we shall consider carefully applications from anywhere with regard to children, and we shall not return them to the war zone. A visa for a child costs only £10.

The noble Lord, Lord Richard, referred also to Scandinavians who do not have a visa for Bosnia. The reason for that is because the asylum seekers come from Kosovo and not from Bosnia. All other European states cover Bosnia.

Perhaps I may make one point crystal clear. Everyone is horrified at what has happened in Yugoslavia and the tragedy which is occurring there. It is right that the United Kingdom should help but it is not possible to have an open-ended policy which allows everyone to enter the country. The figures show that in January, 115 people came here from Yugoslavia seeking asylum; in February, the figure was 115; and in March the figure increased to 1,707 plus 530 dependants. Those are all asylum seekers; but not all will be deserving of asylum. We want to help those who have been ravaged by the war. We can do that in conjunction with UNHCR and the International Red Cross. Those organisations are on the spot and know who are the people most deserving of help. We have said to those people that we shall help them and we shall play our part.

Lord Richard

My Lords, before the noble Earl sits down, perhaps he will clarify one matter. The Government are imposing a visa requirement on the people from the former Yugoslavia who now wish to come to the UK. However, do I understand him correctly to say that there are insufficient posts in Yugoslavia which are capable of issuing those visas? If anybody wishes to come here from Bosnia, they must first reach a country which is not the United Kingdom, go to the British Embassy in whichever country they happen to be in and then obtain the visa in the third country before they come to the United Kingdom. Is that really government policy?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I said that there are various places in former Yugoslavia which operate a visa service, although that is being done in a limited way because of the situation there. Anyone who obtains a visa from one of those posts must go to another country for a flight to come here. Therefore, if there is difficulty in obtaining a visa in former Yugoslavia, the majority of people can go to another country, where they must go in any event for their flight, and can obtain a visa in that country.

4.56 p.m.

Lord Boyd-Carpenter

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many of us appreciate that the Government have no option but to introduce a measure of this kind in order to deal with the extremely difficult situation caused by the outrageous behaviour of so many people in Yugoslavia?

Is he aware that the number of those wishing to come here includes many people who are not in any sense refugees and includes many people—and this applies also to people from other countries—who wish to come to this country because the standard of living here is high and because our social services will look after them so well? Therefore, if the Government are to play their part in dealing with genuine people escaping from violence and conditions of war, some provision of this kind—and a visa provision seems to be the most sensible—requires to be instituted.

Is my noble friend aware that the experience of many of us who know anything about aviation is that no unofficial person can fly direct from Yugoslavia to this country? People originating in Yugoslavia who come here have had to go to another country between here and there. Therefore, they are able to book a flight and, if necessary, obtain a visa in that other country. Is my noble friend aware that it seems to some of us that the Government's proposals fit in extremely sensibly with that state of affairs?

Is he aware also that the Government have a duty to prevent this country being swamped by an onrush of so-called refugees, given that we have our own considerable problems with regard to congestion. unemployment and housing shortages?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for making those points. He is entirely right. Nobody likes to have to take fairly harsh measures but the fact is that many of the people who come here, as my noble friend quite rightly pointed out, are not asylum seekers. They may come here seeking asylum, but very often they do not qualify as refugees. They come here, and having been here for a while they then apply to a local authority for accommodation and help. They then apply for asylum, having already been here for some time.

When there are increases such as we have seen, it is clear that there must be some kind of control because any government in any country must have some control over those who go there. Otherwise, the country concerned simply cannot absorb the numbers of people arriving there. If a person has to suffer an inconvenience—and a terrible inconvenience—in their own country, that does not necessarily mean that he should be able to say, "Well, I think I shall go to that country because it suits my fancy".

The whole purpose of the international convention is that asylum should be given to those people who can genuinely show that they will suffer from political or religious persecution. It is not without significance that all other European countries but four have found it necessary to take out regimes against the former Yugoslavia, and all European Community countries previously had visa regimes against Bosnia. We have to do this, not because we do not care or are not concerned about the ravages in the former Yugoslavia, but simply because the position of asylum must be correctly administered. We are helping those who suffer the terrible disasters in Bosnia through the help that we are prepared to give in concert with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees who knows about the problems and who knows the most deserving people there on the spot.

Lord Monson

My Lords—

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, I have a great deal of sympathy with what the noble Earl said about the flow of what one might call economic refugees who desire to live in a better society. It is true that that is a problem. The problem that we are discussing is how to identify the genuine refugees. It appears to me from my experience in preparing a report on this subject that the Government have not done anything positive to identify those people suffering persecution, certainly religious persecution in the case of Bosnia. I should like to know whether the noble Earl's department has increased the number of people and whether the consulates have set up a special unit in order to identify on the spot those people who are certainly refugees and for whom there is an enormous amount of sympathy in this country. Certainly, the visa recommendations may help in the case of economic refugees, but we in this country want to see the positive and I do not see anything in the Statement which indicates that that positive action has been taken.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, clearly my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is monitoring the position as regards our posts in Yugoslavia, but, under the 1951 United Nations convention, a person cannot be a refugee while he is still in his country of origin. That means that, if a national of the former Yugoslavia fears persecution and the United Kingdom is the most appropriate country of refuge, it is open to him to apply at a British post in the region. We shall certainly consider the issue of a visa in those circumstances outside the immigration rules.

Lord Monson

My Lords, I think it is the turn of the Cross-Benchers.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, perhaps I may put some points to my noble friend as I have relatives on both sides of the conflict in Yugoslavia. First, one accepts that there is a great problem about immigration from Eastern Europe and Africa, and one appreciates the general context of the Government's anxiety in this matter. My noble friend referred to the "inconvenience"—what a word to use —that those people suffer as they try to get away. He said that there are various places where visas may be obtained. I shall ask him further about that, but that is a rather deprecatory way of referring to the matter. These people travel by all kinds of means, such as hitch-hiking. They are not by a long shot people who can afford air flights. People arrive here who have hitch-hiked the whole way.

Taking those points into consideration, perhaps I may ask my noble friend this question: where in Yugoslavia are those facilities for visas available? Will we open an office at Split? Will we open an office in Sarajevo? Have we got one available in Trieste? Is there one in Tiranë? Are these sources of visas available and within easy reach of Bosnia? When I say "easy", I mean relatively easy for those who have walked three or four days and nights with no food and inadequate clothing. Will my noble friend look into the question of providing visa facilities within reach of the area of difficulty? Will he also bear in mind—I do not want to be unpleasant—the fact that, the day after a vote regarding our position at the heart of Europe, this is not very creditable?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I accept that my choice of the word "inconvenience" may not have been very fortunate. I did not use that word in any sense against those who genuinely seek asylum or those who have been scarred by war; but there are those who live away from the war zone, who do not like the conditions and who would prefer to live somewhere else. That was why I meant that those people might find it more convenient to live in this country than they would in their own.

My noble friend asked what is available from the point of view of posts that issue visas. I explained in a previous answer that there are three posts—at Belgrade, Zagreb and Ljubljana—and that they were experiencing difficult conditions in which to operate.

My noble friend's final remark was unfortunate. We have tried to help those people who are at the worst part of the troubles—those who are in detention camps and those who have suffered from the traumas of war. We are not stopping anyone applying to be an asylum-seeker, but we are making the regime slightly easier to operate by allowing not so many people to come to this country as asylum seekers rather than allowing them to come and then finding that they are really coming for other reasons.

The Earl of Lauderdale

My Lords, will my noble friend look into the possibility of establishing a visa facility in Split and Sarajevo, whatever else is done?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, I shall certainly see that that point is considered.

Lord Monson

My Lords, does the noble Earl agree that there is nothing that the Bosnian Serbs, and now it seems, unhappily, the Bosnian Croats, would like better than for as many Bosnian Moslem refugees as possible to be given asylum in the West? The Serbs and Croats calculate that, once the Bosnian Moslems are settled in the West, they will lose all desire ever to return to their homeland. In that way the ghastly policy of ethnic cleansing will turn out to be a complete success.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Monson, has a real point. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and others, including ourselves, have said that those people should get out of the disaster area, but remain as close to it as possible so that they can eventually return there. That country is going through the most appalling upheavals, creating the most terrible disasters and tragedies for people, but one hopes that that will eventually come to an end and it will be right for those people to settle back into Yugoslavia rather than have found a place away from there from which they will not be able to return to Yugoslavia.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, are the Government aware that one of the main criteria for refugee status is the fear of persecution? Is it not rather unfortunate that we should wait until we see the scars of torture and persecution on people's faces and bodies before we accept them as refugees? Further, are the Government aware—in this Chamber we have a right to raise the historical perspective—of the tremendous benefits that have accrued to this country over the centuries of taking refugees from Europe and beyond as a result of the conflicts that beset them in their native lands?

Perhaps I may allude to a few such cases. First, there are the Dutch refugees who pumped out the Fens. Secondly, there are the Huguenot refugees who provided the basis of the silk industry in this country. Thirdly, coming closer to home and closer in time, there are the Jewish refugees from Central Europe in the 1930s. Finally, closer still in time, there are the Asian refugees from Uganda. All those people have created tremendous, long-term, economic benefits for this country. Are not the Government taking rather too short-term a view in simply considering the immediate social security costs of the influx of refugees from Yugoslavia rather than taking into account the humanitarian need and the long-term benefits that will accrue to the United Kingdom from accepting refugees from Yugoslavia?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Monkswell, asks why we must wait to see the scars of torture on people's faces. They are tragic events and those people have suffered immensely from the ravages of war. But that does not necessarily make them refugees within the terms of the United Nations convention. For a person to apply to become a refugee he must have a well-founded fear of persecution for religious or political reasons. Tragic and awful though the scenes are that we have seen, those who have suffered do not automatically fall in the asylum category.

We have tried to make the asylum system work properly in this country and at the same time help those who have suffered the ravages which your Lordships find so horrifying. We are doing that by deliberately taking those whom the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees considers to be the most important and most deserving.

Lord Milverton

My Lords, does my noble friend on the Front Bench realise that many of us know and appreciate that Her Majesty's Government are trying to do their best in a terrible situation? My noble friend mentioned the important word "absorption". However much we wish to allow anyone to enter, every country has an absorption limit. Possibly the problem arose when early on European countries did not give a strong enough indication that not only do we disapprove, but that we thoroughly disapprove of what is happening. Therefore the people perpetrating the acts thought "Oh good. We can carry on".

We must try much harder to make the people in what was Yugoslavia realise that one day they will have to allow these men and women, these boys and girls, to return, whether they be Croats, Moslems or other ethnic groups. We must give hope to the Moslems and others that one day they will be able to return. The only way for that to happen is for certain people in Belgrade and their cohorts in Bosnia to realise that we mean more than strong words. I believe that that is the best hope we can give to the many people who are suffering.

As far as possible let us bring in and absorb as many as we can. Each country in Europe and throughout the world is able to absorb different numbers. We cannot all do the same. I appreciate that it is hard for Her Majesty's Government, but we must do what we can. I believe that we are trying to be fair and right and I therefore support the Government.

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, my noble friend Lord Milverton is correct and endorses the point of my noble friend Lord Boyd-Carpenter; that is, that any country must be able to absorb those that it takes in. There is no virtue in taking people in if they cannot then be dealt with properly and the host community cannot absorb them. That is why we need an immigration policy.

I can only repeat that we have done a great deal both for immigration as a whole and for asylum seekers. We will continue to help asylum seekers and those people who are worst affected in Bosnia.

Lord Teviot

My Lords, neither my noble friend nor other noble Lords mentioned the state of Macedonia. Can my noble friend say what is happening to the subjects of what was formerly the Yugoslav state of Macedonia?

Earl Ferrers

My Lords, that is part of the former Yugoslavia which has not given much trouble, as yet, from the United Kingdom point of view. However, there are difficulties with Greece.