From Parliament: How I Voted On Tax Credits; Children of Asylum Seekers; the Independent Electoral Commission; servicemen and women denied help after contrating asbestos related diseases; name genocide for what it is; recent written parliamentary questions: capital punishment in Iran: North Korea; China; Bangladesh


Why I Voted Against the Changes To Tax Credits:

Letter to The Observer newspaper:

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/oct/24/letters-tax-credits-families-suffer

On Monday the House of Lords debates the introduction of changes to the tax credit system that will make it much harder for families to move into work and to increase their hours or earnings. Not only will these new regulations cost some working families well in excess of £1,000 per year, but they will mean that some families looking to progress in work face keeping as little as 3p for each additional £1 that they earn. At a time when nearly two-thirds of children living in poverty are in working families none of this can be right.

We welcome some of the government’s decisions that will provide additional support for working families – including increases in the national minimum wage and extending entitlement to free childcare for three- and four-year-olds. However, these changes are simply not sufficient to ensure that working families do not suffer major overall losses caused by these changes, and by other tax credit and universal credit changes to be introduced in future years. We ask that the government revisit these regulations to ensure that working families do not lose out. Lord Warner, crossbencher; Lord Strasburger, crossbencher; Earl of Listowel, crossbench; Baroness Hollins, crossbench; Lord Alton, crossbench; Baroness Meacher, crossbench; Baroness O’Loan, crossbench; Lord Rana, crossbench; Lord Low, crossbench; Rt Rev the Lord Williams, crossbencher; Rt Rev the Lord Carey of Clifton, crossbench; Bishop of TruroBishop of PortsmouthBaroness Stern, crossbench; Baroness Hughes of Stretford, Labour; Lord Snape, Labour; Earl of Clancarty, crossbench; Baroness Smith of Basildon, Labour; Lord Bassam, Labour;Baroness Manzoor, Lib Dem; Baroness Sherlock, Labour; Lord McKenzie, Labour;Baroness Hollis, Labour; Lord Hollick, Labour; Lord Smith of Leigh, Labour;Baroness Lister, Labour; Baroness Dean of Thornton-le-Fylde, Labour; Baroness Thornton, Labour; Baroness Jean Corston, Labour; Lord Collins of Highbury, Labour; Baroness Quin, Labour; Baroness Corston, Labour; Baroness Andrews, Labour; Lord Harris, Labour; Lord Hunt of Kings Heath, Labour; Baroness Drake, Labour; Baroness Healy of Primrose Hill, Labour; Lord Watson of Invergowrie, Labour; Lord McFall of Alcluith, Labour; Lord Bradley, Labour; Lord Beecham, Labour; Baroness Kinnock, Labour; Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Labour;Baroness Royall, Labour; Baroness Blackstone, Labour; Baroness Kramer, Lib Dem; Lord Stoneham of Droxford, Lib Dem; Lord Kirkwood of Kirkhope, Lib Dem;Baroness Thomas of Winchester, Lib Dem; Lord Greaves, Lib Dem; Baroness Maddock, Lib Dem; Lord Scriven, Lib Dem; Baroness Northover, Lib Dem;Baroness Humphreys, Lib Dem; Baroness Grender, Lib Dem; Lord Thomas of Gresford, Lib Dem; Lord Palmer of Childs Hill, Lib Dem; Baroness Hamwee, Lib Dem; Baroness Randerson, Lib Dem; Lord Teverson, Lib Dem; Baroness Garden of Frognal, Lib Dem; Baroness Ludford, Lib Dem; Baroness Parminter, Lib Dem House of Lords

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Debate on the reduction in support for the children of asylum seekers: October 27th

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

 My Lords, I want to say a few words in support of the Motion of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, to annul the regulations which cut asylum support rates to children and which, according to the Children’s Society, will,

 “force over 10,000 children seeking safety from war and persecution”,

 to live in severe poverty. I should say that I am a patron of Asylum Link Merseyside.

 It is usually a pretty good test of the decency of any society to examine how it treats its most vulnerable. By anybody’s reckoning, you do not come much more vulnerable than children who are members of families seeking safety from persecution or war. Searing images of an 18-month-old baby wrenched to safety from the seas last weekend, or the corpse of a young boy washed ashore, not having made it, are a graphic reminder of the dangers facing families seeking refuge from the horrors being rained down upon them.

 

It is always sobering to imagine yourself in the place of a family forced to leave everything behind in countries such as Syria or Eritrea. Last week, the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, and I heard first-hand accounts from refugees who had escaped from Eritrea. Witnesses cited a United Nations report which concludes that the things that the Afwerki regime does to its population probably constitute crimes against humanity. We were told of deaths by torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, indefinite military conscription, forced labour and the persecution of religious believers. The country’s population is haemorrhaging, as those who are able to try to escape, seeking asylum in countries like ours if they are able to get here, but more often than not in transit countries such as Libya, facing further persecution. A group of Eritreans was recently beheaded by ISIS in Libya as they were fleeing to try to claim asylum.

 

Every month, up to 5,000 people leave Eritrea. More than 350,000 have done so so far, about 10% of the entire population. Some 46% of those who try to make the perilous Mediterranean crossing from Libya come from either Eritrea or Syria. The tragedy of those countries must of course be tackled at source, but in the mean time, we must respond with humanity and a sense of justice and compassion for those caught up in these appalling situations.

 

Eritrea is one country and one example, but I mention it to give some context to today’s debate. As we have heard, under Section 95 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999, asylum seekers who reach the UK and would otherwise be destitute may access support while their protection claim is being considered. Those provisions were already set at 70% of income support, while separate provision would be made for asylum seekers’ accommodation and utility bills. The freezing of support rates, followed by a flat rate of £36.95 a week, regardless of age, has left asylum seekers in a state of destitution.

 

With a mere £5 a day, asylum seekers must pay for their food, clothing, toiletries, transport and other essential needs, as the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, reminded us. The effect on children, who since August have had their support cut by £16 a week, is draconian. The noble Lord, Lord Rosser, made that point eloquently in his remarks a few minutes ago. The Children’s Society says:

 

“The internationally recognised poverty threshold, or ‘poverty line’, is defined as living on less than 60% of the median UK household income”.

 

Families living on asylum support fall well below this level. For example, a couple with a child will now receive just under £111 per week, 60% below the poverty line of £279 per week.

 

6.30 pm

 

Every parent knows that bringing up children carries significant costs. Child Poverty Action estimates—as the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, has reminded us—that, after excluding housing and child care, the cost of bringing up a child in Britain adds £93.03 per week for the first child and £86.37 for a second child. Beyond food, shelter and clothing, additional resources are needed if a child is to grow, develop and learn effectively, but these regulations mean that children will be treated the same as adults, without any recognition of their additional needs. Charities working with asylum seekers and refugees say that there will be increased social isolation, as families are unable to afford public transport—ending trips, for instance, to libraries and child-centred facilities—along with the inability to pay for everything from children’s birthday parties to TV or school uniforms.

 

It is hard to see how this approach meets our obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, to which we are a signatory, and which insists that every child has the right to a standard of living adequate for their physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development, as well as a right to play and to rehabilitation. Perhaps the Minister will tell us how this makes us compliant with our convention obligations as well as complying with our statutory duty under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 to safeguard and promote children’s welfare.

 

Asylum Link Merseyside is based in the neighbourhood that I represented, as a city councillor and Member of the House of Commons, for 25 years. Since its foundation in 2001 it has supported many destitute asylum seekers. It currently supports more than 40 destitute clients, housing 20 of those and supporting others with cash grants and food parcels. Over the past three years, it has seen more than 400 destitute clients, with two or three new referrals every week. ALM says:

 

“Most people living in Britain cannot believe that anyone here would be forced to live in absolute poverty, begging at churches for handouts and parcels of food, sleeping on the streets or worse being forced into prostitution to survive”.

 

But that is a reality.

 

Asylum Link Merseyside also says:

 

“This government policy of making asylum seekers destitute works on the assumption that by forcing people into extreme poverty they will choose to return to countries from which they have fled in fear of their lives”.

 

What they have found in Liverpool is that this assumption is wrongheaded, because 98% of failed asylum seekers choose to stay, surviving on handouts, sleeping on floors or sleeping rough. ALM says that, over the past three years, it has come into contact,

 

“with over 400 destitute asylum seekers out of which only 8 have chosen to return home voluntarily”.

 

Independent research has concluded that 70% of income support is the absolute minimum required to meet basic needs of asylum seekers, and that was before support levels for children were cut by £16 a week. In 2013, Refugee Action interviewed 40 clients who were in receipt of Section 95 support and found that 70% of interviewees were unable to buy either enough food to feed themselves, or fresh fruit and vegetables, or food that met their dietary, religious or cultural requirements. Refugee Action research indicated that asylum seekers usually had to sacrifice one essential item in order to meet another one. Again, that was before support levels for children were cut by £16 a week.

 

Perhaps the Minister will reflect again on the April 2014 High Court judgment to which the noble Lord, Lord Rosser, referred, in which the judge found that the Government’s assessment of the amount needed by asylum seekers to avoid destitution was flawed. He ordered that the decision be taken again. That ruling required the Government to take account of essential items—such as non-prescription medication, nappies, formula milk and other requirements of new mothers—and to re-examine the errors in calculating the amount required to meet essential living needs. Although the Government responded to the judgment by reviewing their policy, I doubt that it had in mind that the Government should cut support levels for children by £16 a week. Surely that is the central point we are debating tonight.

 

The statistical basis on which the review was conducted failed to take into account fundamental issues, such as how asylum seekers often arrive with nothing and do not have a support network that they can rely on. In the context of how minors are treated, the Home Office reliance on Office for National Statistics data makes no provision for additional expenditure that may be required for children. To put it mildly, this is bizarre. According to Still Human Still Here,

 

“the net effect is that asylum seeking families with children are now living on rates that are some 60% below the poverty line and many of these families will spend a considerable period of time on this support”.

 

Of course, such families are totally prohibited from working to support themselves and are completely reliant on Section 95 support. Surely we should give some consideration to that issue.

 Little wonder that the Royal College of Psychiatrists has concluded:

 “The psychological health of refugees and asylum seekers currently worsens on contact with the UK asylum system”.

 All too often for these desperate families it is a case of no money, no house, no permission to work. In the 21st century, in the fourth-richest country on earth, people are being reduced to absolute destitution, not by accident or personal tragedy but by deliberate act of policy—and we should therefore certainly reconsider these regulations today by supporting the Motion in the name of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee.

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Debate on the Recommendations of the Independent Electoral Commission: October 27th

Lord Alton of Liverpool (Crossbench)

 My Lords, your Lordships’ House wants to reach a conclusion on this matter, so I will try to be very brief.

 I want to counter something that the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, said a few minutes ago about the danger of your Lordships’ House exceeding its powers. In 2013, we specifically wrote into this legislation—without dissent in your Lordships’ House and without any disagreement between the two Houses of Parliament—the right for either House to dissent if the transition period should in any way be altered. Therefore, no one is exceeding their powers by introducing this Motion, as the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, has done, or the amendment to it that the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, has introduced today. We should not confuse these questions, and I hope that the noble Lord will agree with me that that is wide of the argument.

 

The integrity of the process—a point referred to by the noble Lord, Lord Wills, in his timely and excellent speech earlier today—is the key factor. I agreed with the noble Lord, Lord Cormack, when he talked about the integrity of the electoral register; I agree with him about issues of electoral fraud; I am in favour of individual registration; and I also agree that it is important to have timely Boundary Commission reviews. We are in agreement about all of that. However, I think that the legitimacy of the process is the key question that your Lordships have to address this evening. The legitimacy of the process can only ever be guaranteed by the independent Electoral Commission. That is why I disagree with my noble friend Lord Empey.

 

The noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay of Clashfern, when he intervened on the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy, reminded us of what the Electoral Commission said about the benefits. I have the entire quotation here; it is not long:

 

“If the transition ends in December 2015, there is a potential benefit to the accuracy of the register—with any retained entries which are redundant or inaccurate being removed—”,

 

but it goes on to say that there is also,

 

“a risk to the completeness of the register and to participation”,

 

in the important set of elections in May 2016,

 

“with retained entries relating to eligible electors being removed”.

 

The commission concludes that the risks outweigh any benefits, and argues that, before overturning the original timetable agreed in your Lordships’ House and in another place,

 

“there should be a compelling case for bringing forward the end of the transition”,

 

from the date originally agreed by Parliament.

 

The commission—not the political parties or many of us who sit as independents in this House and who may have had political allegiances or might be supporters of parties—says that the case has not been made. This is not about party advantage; this is about ensuring that the process is above any suspicion. It is ensuring that no one is a loser or a gainer as a direct result of changing the regulations and agreements that were originally made.

 

For 25 years, I represented inner-city communities, either as a city or county councillor or as a Member of the House of Commons. I also saw two parliamentary constituencies disappear—it might be thought that to lose one might be regarded as carelessness—and I recognise that demographic changes have to be reflected in fair electoral arrangements. My own experience tells me that the really crucial point is that any changes have to be seen to be disconnected to party advantage and must always be one step removed from party politicians; otherwise, they lead to the devaluation of our electoral arrangements. Inevitably, the short-circuiting has given rise to the charge that the normal arrangements are politically motivated. Whether or not that charge of trying to score political advantage is true, perception, of course, is all. Anything that casts doubt on the legitimacy of our electoral arrangements, or the fairness of how elections are conducted, is bound to poison the wells of our democracy, and so should be resisted at all costs.

 

The independent and impartial Electoral Commission says that,

 

“taking this decision before the outcome of the annual canvass means the Government has acted without reliable information on how many redundant entries will be removed”.

 

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Dobbs, that he does not know, and I do not know, what the numbers are. The commission says to us that there is no reliable information and therefore, we should not proceed in this way. Acting without reliable information is no way for any Government to proceed. It says:

 

“We therefore recommend that Parliament does not approve this order”.

 

That is the best possible advice we could have been given.

 

Although my noble friend Lord Empey is right that we are entitled to reject that advice if we wish, we put it into the legislation for a purpose, and we would have to have very good and compelling reasons for overturning it. Frankly, I have not seen those good and compelling reasons. We must safeguard our electoral process by ensuring that it is above any suspicion of any kind of cynicism or manipulation. I therefore urge your Lordships to support the Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Tyler, and the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy.

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Why are servicemen and women excluded from help when they contract asbestos related diseases such as mesothelioma?

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/asbestos-thousands-of-uk-soldiers-who-develop-cancer-due-to-exposure-unfairly-treated-by-mod-say-a6706011.html

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Sunday Express: 25.10.2015: Name this genocide for what it is

 http://www.express.co.uk/news/uk/614428/david-cameron-recognise-christians-refugees-face-genocide-middle-east-isis

 https://davidalton.net/2015/10/24/government-failure-declare-genocide-against-christians-and-yazidis/

 Naming things for what they are is crucial – but, once a sovereign State say that what is happening to the Christians and Yazidis is genocide it will challenge the international community to re-order their response and redefine their priorities (not least in the way we prioritise those seeking asylum).

Genocide focuses not on the killing of individuals, but on the destruction of groups and aims at protecting the group.

From evidence received from partners on the ground, ISIS (Daesh)’s actions do undoubtedly correspond with the legal definition of genocide (see below). Deeming Daesh’s actions as such would bring their actions into the most serious category of crimes that can be committed by humans. (The crimes committed in the Holocaust by the Nazi Party, which amounted to genocide of Jews and other minority groups including disabled persons, demonstrates the deeply serious nature that ISIS’ actions would have to be regarded as by the international community.) The international community has thus far been reluctant to associate the term ‘genocide’ with Daesh’s actions as this would require a strong international reaction which there is often lack of political will for. Under the 1948 Genocide Convention, the 127 state signatories undertook to “prevent and punish” genocide and in identifying it, States may act alone or call on the UN to take “appropriate” measures.

Deeming Daesh’s actions as genocide would suggest that the UK, in conjunction with other States, ought to act or call on the UN to take “appropriate” measures in line with the gravity of the crimes committed. Ad hoc Rwandan and Yugoslavian international criminal tribunals have been established to punish individuals deemed to have committed genocide in these two contexts previously; these tribunals could act as a precedent for bringing Daesh and other actors to justice in a similar Syrian / Iraq International Tribunal if genocide is legally determined as occurring. It would also be officially recognised that the systematic persecution of Christians by Daesh is most serious and ought to be treated as such by the international community, perhaps rendering necessary the international attention and focus that has thus far not been given in such a focused manner.

The 1948 Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide defines genocide as:

“Any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:

(a) Killing members of the group;

(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;

(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;

(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;

(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

Bombing people to smithereens is one response which nations can make to these horrors. Personally, I think that using the rule of law, and making it clear to those who are responsible for these crimes that their “Nuremburg moment” will come one day would be more consistent with our own values.

To follow the answers to these written questions to the Government go to (or click on the question number):

http://www.parliament.uk/business/publications/written-questions-answers-statements/written-questions-answers/?page=1&max=20&questiontype=AllQuestions&house=commons%2clords&use-dates=True&answered-from=2015-09-01&answered-to=2015-11-01&member=738

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Iran: Capital Punishment

HL3030

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of Iran about the use of capital punishment, in particular regarding the case of Fatemeh Salbehi, and what assessment they have made of the report by Amnesty International that over 700 executions have occurred in Iran this year.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Bangladesh: Religious Freedom

HL3031

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 October (HL Deb, GC53–4), what response they have received from the government of Bangladesh following the representations they have made about the murder of secularists and upholding rights of freedom of belief set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

China: Human Rights

HL2457

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the government of China and the Chinese Ambassador to the United Kingdom on the human rights situation in China, with respect to the arrest and detention of lawyers and campaigners.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Terrorism

HL2969

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 June (HL689) in determining that North Korea does not pose a terrorist threat, what assessment they made of any involvement by North Korea in assassinations, attempted kidnapping and offering support for the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Phyoe Phyoe Aung

HL2970

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made on behalf of Phyoe Phyoe Aung who is currently detained in Burma.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Burma: Religious Freedom

HL2971

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what support they offer to youth-led civil society initiatives countering hate speech and promoting religious tolerance in Burma.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Human Rights

HL2455

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether human rights remain a foreign policy priority.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Human Rights

HL2456

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the proportion of their budget and personnel that is allocated to promoting human rights, the rule of law and democracy in other countries.

Home Office

Asylum: North Korea

HL2882

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Lord Bates on 8 June (HL179), whether they will continue to deport North Korean asylum seekers to South Korea, as detailed in the United Kingdom-South Korea Readmission Agreement; and whether North Korean asylum seekers can claim asylum in the United Kingdom if they co-operate with the South Korean Embassy in London to establish that they do not seek South Korean citizenship.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Capital Punishment

HL2883

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to raise the case of any of the public executions in North Korea between 2010 and 2014 detailed in the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in that country.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Capital Punishment

HL2883

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they have taken to raise the case of any of the public executions in North Korea between 2010 and 2014 detailed in the latest report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in that country.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

North Korea: Television Channels

HL2885

To ask Her Majesty’s Government, following the publication of the latest report by the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in North Korea, what assessment they have made of how many television channels in North Korea may be accessed by the North Korean population.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2969):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the Written Answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 June (HL689) in determining that North Korea does not pose a terrorist threat, what assessment they made of any involvement by North Korea in assassinations, attempted kidnapping and offering support for the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah and Hamas. (HL2969)

Tabled on: 26 October 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

We are aware of media reports linking individuals alleged to be agents of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) to assassination attempts against DPRK citizens who have resettled in the Republic of Korea (ROK). The reports also detail the actions taken by the ROK authorities in response to these incidents. There are also occasional unverified reports that North Korean agents have abducted refugees resident in other countries. While the DPRK has acknowledged its involvement in the historical abductions of Japanese citizens during the 1970s and 1980s, it has not admitted to participation in these more recent reported cases. We strongly support efforts to resolve enforced disappearances and spoke on this matter during a UN Human Rights Council panel discussion in September.

We are also aware of media reports alleging cooperation between the DPRK and the Tamil Tigers, Hezbollah and Hamas. Despite these reports, recent public assessments indicate that the DPRK is not known to have sponsored any terrorist acts since 1987. However, the UK remains extremely concerned by the DPRK’s indiscriminate global proliferation of arms and related material, in violation of UN sanctions.

Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2015 at 15:42.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

China: Family Planning

HL2886

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they raised concerns about the impact of the one child policy in China on (1) human rights, (2) selective abortion of (a) female, and (b) disabled, unborn children, and (3) rates of forced abortions, infanticide and involuntary sterilisations, with President Xi Jinping during his visit to the United Kingdom.

Baroness Anelay of St Johns, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, has provided the following answer to your written parliamentary question (HL2886):

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they raised concerns about the impact of the one child policy in China on (1) human rights, (2) selective abortion of (a) female, and (b) disabled, unborn children, and (3) rates of forced abortions, infanticide and involuntary sterilisations, with President Xi Jinping during his visit to the United Kingdom. (HL2886)

Tabled on: 22 October 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

China’s ‘one child’ policy was not raised during his recent State Visit, though the Prime Minister, my right hon. Friend the Member for Witney (Mr Cameron), was very clear during his wide-ranging discussions with President Xi Jinping of the importance that the UK attaches to human rights as part of our wider relationship with China. Reforms announced by the Chinese government on 29 October which should allow every Chinese family to have a second child, are a significant step.

Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2015 at 16:01.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

China: Family Planning

HL2887

To ask Her Majesty’s Government whether they discussed with President Xi Jinping, during his visit to the United Kingdom, the selective relaxation of the one child policy in China, and the impact of that revised policy on families who have more than two children.

Home Office

Asylum: Children

HL2689

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what information they have about the claim by the government of Italy that, of the 13,026 children who arrived unaccompanied in Italy in 2014, 3,707 disappeared after arriving; what assessment they have made of where those children are; and what consideration they are giving to the request of Save the Children that the United Kingdom should provide refuge for 3,000 unaccompanied children.

Home Office

Asylum: Children

HL2690

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what discussions they have had with other European Union member states about children who have arrived in Europe unaccompanied or separated from family members; what assessment they have made of the vulnerability of such children; and what they are doing to ensure that those children are prioritised for security and shelter.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Pakistan: Christianity

HL2256

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what is their current assessment of the number of Pakistani Christians who have fled to Thailand, Malaysia and Sri Lanka through fear of persecution.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Pakistan: Christianity

HL2257

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the conditions in the detention centres where Pakistani Christians are detained in Bangkok, and whether the inmates include babies, children, lactating women and the infirm; what international obligations exist in regard to the detention of children in such circumstances; whether they have made representations to the UNHCR and the government of Thailand about those conditions; and if so, what response they have received.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Pakistan: Christianity

HL2258

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of how the conditions in detention centres where Pakistani Christians are detained in Bangkok compare with the conditions in prisons in Thailand.

Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Pakistan: Refugees

HL2259

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assistance they have been able to provide for refugees fleeing persecution in Pakistan in resolving their applications for asylum; and what is their estimate of the average time likely to elapse between an applicant lodging a claim for asylum in Bangkok and being resettled.

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Bangladesh

Question:
To ask Her Majesty’s Government, further to the answer by Baroness Anelay of St Johns on 22 October (HL Deb, GC53–4), what response they have received from the government of Bangladesh following the representations they have made about the murder of secularists and upholding rights of freedom of belief set out in Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. (HL3031)

Tabled on: 27 October 2015

Answer:
Baroness Anelay of St Johns:

The Government has been unequivocal in its condemnation of the murder of four secular bloggers in Bangladesh this year, and in calling for the Government of Bangladesh to protect those who face threats to their lives because of the views they have expressed. The Bangladesh authorities continue their investigations to find the perpetrators and a number of arrests have been made. The UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, visited Bangladesh from 31 August to 9 September. We look forward to his report at the UN Human Rights Council in March 2016 and we will encourage the government to consider all its recommendations carefully.

Date and time of answer: 05 Nov 2015 at 16:02.