Debates between Lord Faulks and Lord Etherton during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 1st Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 1 & Committee stage: Part 1

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Lord Faulks and Lord Etherton
Lord Faulks Portrait Lord Faulks (Non-Afl)
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I am very grateful to the noble and learned Lord for giving way, and I agree with his analysis entirely. I just wanted to ask him this question, which the Committee might want to know the answer to: if his view, and the view of the noble and learned Lord, Lord Brown, is right, what would be the consequences of some of these cases—were the Bill to become enacted as it is—if they reached the courts?

Lord Etherton Portrait Lord Etherton (CB)
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Strictly speaking, the legal position is that there is no basis for individuals to enforce the convention, but it is enforceable by other member states, which can complain that this country is not complying with its obligations. I would expect that that may well happen. So far as coming here illegally is concerned, my noble and learned friend Lord Brown referred to the Adimi case, which was about whether there was an illegal entry. He held that there was not, because although these refugees passed through intermediate states, they did in fact come directly. So, the individual is placed in a not very satisfactory situation, but the state can certainly be held accountable in the International Court of Justice, and that may well happen.

If I may now descend from the wider view to the narrower, I want to deal with a point I have raised in relation to Clause 11(3) and other similar clauses which impose a requirement on a refugee. The requirement, as it were, or even a breach of it can be overcome if

“they can show good cause for their unlawful entry or presence”,

and there are other provisions saying that this can happen where there is a “reasonable” expectation of something happening or where something is “reasonably practicable”. In all those cases, I have sought to table an amendment which says that, in deciding what is good cause, practicable or reasonable, the immigration officer should take into account any protected characteristic of the refugee within the meaning of the Equality Act which is innate or immutable. I do not want to get too involved in the legality of those terms; basically, that is relevant under decisions in our law to people who claim to be a member of a particular social group. Being a member of particular social group that is being persecuted is one of the categories of refugee in Article 1 of the convention, so I do not want to spend too much time on that. There are nine protected characteristics in the Equality Act, but only some of those will be innate or immutable.

That expression, “innate”, is used in the Bill itself in describing the meaning of a particular social group. Your Lordships will find it in Clause 32, which also expressly states that a

“social group may include a group based on a common characteristic of sexual orientation”.

I want to take up that point to explain why I suggest it is necessary that wherever there is a reference to reasonable cause, reasonable expectation or what is practicable—as I have said—there is an express statement in the Bill that the fact that the refugee has a protected characteristic which is innate or immutable should be taken into account.

I want to take the case of LGBTQI+ people to illustrate the reasons why. First, experience has shown that, all too often, difficulties arising from a characteristic such as that have not been taken sufficiently into account. The approach to LGBTQI+ refugees has often been woefully inadequate and misguided. It was not until the 2010 decision of the Appellate Committee of the Supreme Court in HJ (Iran) that it was established that the Home Office could not refuse an asylum claim from a gay man or lesbian simply on the basis that if they could reasonably be expected to act discreetly in their home country, rather than live openly with their sexuality, they would not suffer persecution. Therefore, it was only some 12 years ago that the Home Office, which fought HJ (Iran) right up to the highest court in the land, was obliged to accept that its approach to LGBTQI+ refugees, in the words of then Supreme Court Justice Sir John Dyson—later Lord Dyson and Master of the Rolls—frustrated

“the humanitarian objective of the Convention and”

denied LGBTQI+ people

“the enjoyment of their fundamental rights and freedoms without discrimination.”

Secondly, it is well known that LGBTQI+ refugees face a large number of practical difficulties in claiming asylum. I will address these in due course, when we come to the relevant clauses in the Bill, to show why there has been a failure to satisfy a particular requirement. In the case of Clause 11(2)(b), the issue is whether they presented themselves without delay to the authorities and can show good cause for their unlawful entry. This is the question of clandestine exit. As I have said, it applies also to abused women in abusive relationships coming from a conservative religious community. They cannot go and buy a plane ticket. They cannot indicate in any way in these countries what the reason for their seeking asylum is. The result could be honour killings, stoning or being thrown off a wall, so they keep their characteristics as far as possible to themselves. It is not surprising that they are slow to report themselves or that their routes here are clandestine.

Finally, on this point, the Home Office’s own statistics show the extent to which claims by LGBTQ+ asylum seekers have been wrongly rejected by immigration officers. Experimental statistics published by the Government in August 2019 on lesbian, gay and bisexual asylum claims show there was an initial decision grant rate of 29% in 2018. However, 38% of appeals relating to LGBT asylum applications were allowed in respect of applications made in 2015-18. These published statistics are qualified in some respects but, in broad terms, they reflect the reality of a substantial proportion of successful appeals. That is why, in my suggestion, wherever we see in this Bill as currently framed any reference to good cause, those with protected characteristics that are innate or immutable must be protected by an express reference on the face of the Bill.