News/UK: TIGHTER ASYLUM RULES MAY FOLLOW DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE

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Subject: News/UK: TIGHTER ASYLUM RULES MAY FOLLOW DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE
From: Melanie Orhant (morhant@igc.org)
Date: Mon Oct 04 1999 - 10:35:01 EDT


TIGHTER ASYLUM RULES MAY FOLLOW DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CASE
Dominic Hayes, Political Staff, PA News
Press Association (UK), September 29, 1999

The Government is considering tightening the law to make it more difficult
for women claiming to be victims of domestic violence to apply for asylum
in Britain, it emerged today. Home Secretary Jack Straw said a recent House
of Lords ruling on one such case might have widened the law too far. At the
Labour Party conference in Bournemouth, he told PA News the Government
would review the situation in the light of that case. "We obviously have to
look at this kind of change," he said. "I can't give you the outcome of the
review but we are certainly looking at it." The Lords ruled in June that
two Pakistani women who fled to Britain to escape abuse by their husbands
were entitled to seek asylum. Shanna Islam, a trainee teacher from Karachi,
and Syeda Shah were "unprotected by the Pakistani state", the law lords
said. They found the women formed a "particular social group" under the
terms of the 1951 Geneva Convention on Refugees and therefore were entitled
to refugee status. Speaking at a fringe meeting on asylum and immigration
organised by the Refugee Council, Mr Straw said: "The interpretation by the
court of that part of the 1951 Convention was wider than we thought
consistent with the terms of that Convention." He stressed he would apply
the law is it currently stood: "But we have got to look at the extent to
which our courts' interpretation of the '51 Convention is in line or out of
line with other European countries. "Where it is out of line, then we may
take steps - I don't say this will happen automatically - to bring it into
line." It has been suggested the law lords' ruling would enable a wider
range of people from persecuted groups, such as homosexuals, to attain
refugee status.

Melanie Orhant
morhant@igc.org
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