We have received a request under the Freedom of Information Act 2000 for the following:
Following Rob Whiteman’s admission that the UK had “gentleman’s agreements” with Belgium and France for returning Unaccompanied Asylum Seeker Children:
Who the agreement was made between? (i.e. UKBA and French counterpart, Home office, ministers, etc.)
A full list of countries with whom the UK has similar agreements, who they were made by and when?
We released the following information on 04 April 2012.
The agreement was signed in Paris on 20 April 1995 between the UK and France and allows for the return within 24 hours of persons who are refused entry by either state. The agreement quite specifically states that it does not apply to air travel, and also specifies that it would be superseded by the Dublin Convention (now Regulation) which later came into force on 1st September 1997. For this reason, it does not apply to persons who claim asylum.
The Gentleman’s Agreement with France was signed off by Anthony Rawsthorne, the then Assistant Under Secretary of State for the then Immigration and Nationality Department, alongside a counterpart in the Ministre et par delegation in France. It was previously discussed at the Home Affairs Committee in evidence sessions with previous Home Secretaries and in parliamentary debates. The policy intention of the agreement was to reduce exploitation of the channel crossing by illegal immigrants, speed up removals and reduce cost.
The agreement which was agreed with France only applies to Channel ports and the UK does also have a similar agreement with Belgium. The UK does not have any similar agreements with any other country.
Since 17 November 2011, the practice of returning unaccompanied children under both agreements has ceased and that any child who was previously returned, would have been only after proper arrangements were in place for their return.