HC Deb 20 May 1998 vol 312 c390W
Mr. Dismore

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [43105]

Mr. Mike O'Brien

My right hon. Friend announced in his reply to my hon. Friend the Member for Nuneaton (Mr. Olner) on 16 May 1997,Official Report, column 3, that he had made a declaration under the Social Security (Persons from Abroad) Miscellaneous Amendments Regulations 1996, that the former Zaire had undergone such an upheaval that we would not seek to enforce the return of refused asylum seekers to that country for the time being.

The new government of what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have been in power for a year. The situation in the country has been carefully monitored and there have been consultations with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and with other European partners. Information has also been obtained from a range of sources, including the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Although there is conflict in the east of the country, security conditions in Kinshasa and in western areas of the DRC have been relatively stable for some months.

The information received about conditions in the DRC enables me to make an informed assessment of the merits of asylum applications made prior to the upheaval and subsequently, in accordance with our international obligations. My Department will review all outstanding claims, including those which have previously been refused and are awaiting appeal hearings. Individuals whose claims have already been refused and determined by the independent Immigration Appellate Authority and who are either liable to removal or are awaiting further consideration will be able to submit fresh applications for consideration which, if refused, will attract a fresh right of appeal. If an applicant is able to demonstrate that his fear of persecution is well-founded then asylum will be granted. Also, consideration will be given where there are exceptional and compelling humanitarian reasons for not enforcing return. If asylum or exceptional treatment is not merited, the normal course will be to expect applicants to return to the DRC. We will continue to monitor developments in the region.

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