HC Deb 16 March 2001 vol 364 cc766-7W
Mr. Corbett

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what estimate he has made of the cost of detaining all new asylum applicants in secure conditions for(a) the period covering initial decisions and appeals and (b) the period following refusal of asylum and removal in the current financial year; [153823]

(2) how many additional places in secure conditions he estimates would be needed to detain all new asylum applicants awaiting initial decisions and appeals. [153824]

Mrs. Roche

[holding answer 15 March 2001]: The answer to these questions depends on a number of variables, in particular the number of asylum applicants and the length of time taken to complete the process to removal. Based on forecast asylum intakes, and detention of up to six months, the cost could be more than £2 billion in start-up costs and annual running costs of over £1 billion. It is estimated that a further 32,000 detention spaces would be required. This would equate to a further 64 detention centres each with 500 beds. None of the costs quoted take account of the management overheads of running this size of detention estate. No estimate has been made of the cost of detaining asylum applicants in the period between refusal of asylum and removal.

Mr. Corbett

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department if he will make a statement on the practical difficulties of returning failed asylum seekers to(a) Iran, (b) Iraq, (c) Somalia, (d) Sri Lanka and (e) Afghanistan. [153829]

Mrs. Roche

[holding answer 15 March 2001]: For all nationalities there are the practical difficulties of locating those who have absconded.

There are also the practical difficulties of arranging flights, the handling of last minute representations and legal challenges.

Many asylum seekers arrive without a valid passport. In order to effect their return it is necessary to obtain a passport or other travel document from their national authorities. This can be a lengthy and difficult process as it is often necessary to provide detailed evidence of the applicant's identity and nationality before a travel document can be issued.

We are not currently seeking to return failed asylum seekers where country conditions are not conducive. In addition returns to three of these countries (Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan) are complicated by the absence of direct international flights from the United Kingdom to those countries. Thus removals to those countries require the agreement of third party states to enable transit through their territory. We are currently investigating the potential for reaching such agreements with appropriate states. For some nationalities we are unable to effect removals without having first obtained a travel document from that country's Embassy or High Commission.

Forward to