Embargo: 00:01 Tuesday 9th May 2006

Contact: Owen Williams 020 7219 8659


The House of Lords European Union Committee today published a report on EU proposals for a common returns policy for illegal migrants.

EU Member States all have different policies for returning illegal migrants to their countries of origin. The Committee accept that there is a case for having common EU procedures and standards for doing this - but the Commission's proposal is not the right way to do it.

The proposal gives people an opportunity to return voluntarily to their country of origin. The Committee believe that the time limit proposed will in many cases be too short. Forced removals may be premature, and the National Audit Office has shown that they are much more expensive.

Detention pending removal, especially of children, is of particular concern to the Committee. The conditions in this country are better than in some foreign countries - conditions in France and Italy are appalling - but there is no room for Government complacency.

The Home Office's failure to keep statistics on the time individuals have been in detention is indefensible.

The proposal would accompany removal with a ban on re-entry into the Member States. The Committee believe that this is justifiable only where there is a security risk. The idea that those removed should be able to buy their way out of a re-entry ban is unacceptable.

Other recommendations in the report include:

  • The UK Government should play an active part in the negotiations over the draft Directive, to improve its main defects.

  • The Commission should put more resources into negotiating readmission agreements with third countries.

  • The Council of Europe Guidelines on forced return should be given statutory force.

  • The Government should introduce regular judicial oversight of administrative detention decisions.

Commenting, Lord Wright of Richmond, Chairman of the Committee, said:

"The EU Commission has missed an opportunity to put forward effective procedures for the removal of illegal immigrants.

"At a time when there is public concern about the deportation of foreigners who have served prison sentences, it is important to remember that our report is not dealing with criminals, but with those who have been refused asylum or who no longer have the right to stay in the country legally.

"Those with no right to live here should be returned to their countries of origin, but they must be treated humanely and with dignity. The current proposals will not achieve this. The standards of treatment suggested are an unsatisfactory compromise between the best and the worst which could result in a lowering of standards in some States.

"The Committee visited Yarl's Wood, the UK detention centre for children. We were generally impressed by the conditions under which they were held, but the manner in which some of them are first taken into detention is often inhumane - as will be seen from examples in our report."

Notes to Editors

1. The members of the Committee who conducted the inquiry are:

Lord Wright of Richmond (Chair)

Lord Avebury

Baroness Bonham-Carter of Yarnbury

Earl of Caithness

Lord Corbett of Castle Vale

Baroness D'Souza

Lord Dubs

Baroness Henig

Earl of Listowel

Lord Marlesford

Viscount Ullswater

2. The report is published by The Stationery Office, Illegal Migrants: Proposals for a Common EU Returns Policy, House of Lords European Union Committee, 32nd Report of Session 2005/06, HL Paper 166, ISBN 010 400854 7, Price £25.

3. The full report will available shortly after publication on the internet at:

4. The NAO report mentioned is Returning Failed Asylum Seekers, HC 76 Session 2006/06, Published on 14th July 2005. It is available here:

5. For copies of the report or to request an interview with Lord Wright or Lady D'Souza please contact Owen Williams (Committee Press Officer) on 020 7219 8659.