Peter Lilley, MP for Hitchin and Harpenden, has called upon the Government to renegotiate a new bilateral agreement with France to deal with increasing numbers of asylum seekers attempting to enter Britain via the Channel Tunnel. In a Parliamentary debate on Tuesday (29th January), Mr. Lilley criticised the Government for not reforming the complex asylum system introduced by the Dublin Convention.
Peter Lilley said after the debate:
“I wanted to use the debate to draw attention to the fact that practical measures could have been and should still be taken to curtail the one way flow of asylum seekers entering Britain from France.
“Last year, the number of people claiming political asylum in the UK was equivalent to the entire population of Hitchin and Harpenden. Most are economic migrants who come from miserably poor and disturbed countries. However, this country cannot solve those countries? problems by granting asylum seekers unlimited entry. The most humane thing we can do is speedily return those who are not genuine refugees whence they came.
“Under the Geneva Convention, asylum seekers should seek sanctuary in the first safe country they come to, rather than shop around for the one offering the most favourable conditions. So we have the right to return those who come from a safe country like France. Between 1995 and 1997 many unacceptable asylum seekers were returned to France under a bilateral agreement negotiated by the Conservative Government. But this was allowed to lapse in 1997.
“I urge the government to renegotiate that agreement before the current crisis gets totally out of hand. It worked well before and reflected the cordial relations between Britain and France. The Dublin Convention, which superseded the original agreement, has complicated the process of returning asylum seekers. It has been unable to cope with the scale and sophistication of an industry which has grown on the back of asylum seeking.
“It is inexcusable that the Government did not renegotiate the bilateral agreement with France once the problems emerged. Germany and Denmark have a similar agreement as well as being signatories of the Dublin Convention. It enables Denmark to send back 18% of asylum seekers who made their claims in Denmark. We manage to send back 1%.
“The Government claim to have won greater influence in Europe by making a range of unilateral concessions. If that is so, it is time to renegotiate a bilateral agreement with France as soon as possible.