HL Deb 04 May 2004 vol 660 cc103-4WA
The Earl of Sandwich

asked Her Majesty's Government:

What they have done to publicise the safe return of refugees and asylum seekers to their own countries and communities, so as to counteract any public perception that all asylum seekers and migrants are coming one way. [HL2169]

Baroness Scotland of Asthal

In replying to the above question I will refer to both voluntary returns and enforced removals from the UK, as they differ in approach.

The voluntary assisted return and reintegration programme (VARRP) is aimed at assisting asylum seekers and people with exceptional or discretionary leave who are considering returning to their country of origin voluntarily.

The programme is widely publicised both internally and externally, in reporting centres and induction centres as well as on the Home Office website. Voluntary returns are also publicised to communities by non-governmental organisations including the Refugee Council, Refugee Action, UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration (IOM). Additionally, the Home Office hosts meetings with Iraqi and Afghan community groups to raise the profile of voluntary return. The IOM, which operates VARRP on behalf of the Home Office, will return to all countries where it is safe to do so and where there are travel routes available.

The Government recognise that there is scope for us to promote our enforced removals activity more than we are doing currently and we are taking various steps to try and achieve this. Given the sensitive nature of removals, we need to exercise caution and take into account the safety and well-being of the individuals being removed. However, we are already taking steps to promote some enforced removals by putting some information into the public domain. This includes using the media to help promote certain removals, inviting members of the press to take part in some enforcement operations and publishing quarterly statistics on all areas of IND activity, including removals. These statistics can be found on the Home Office website.