HL Deb 20 May 1998 vol 589 c171WA
Lord Acton

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What is their policy towards asylum seekers from the Democratic Republic of the Congo. [HL2015]

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

My right honourable friend the Home Secretary announced in another place on 16 May 1997 that he has 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) has 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 us to make an informed assessment of the merits of asylum applications made prior to the upheaval and subsequently, in accordance with our international obligations. The Home Office 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.