Chalker wants refugee rules eased

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The Independent Online
HOME OFFICE officials are to be urged by Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, the Minister for Overseas Development, to operate immigration rules more flexibly after protests that attempts were still being made to deport people fleeing the bloodshed in the former Yugoslavia, write Colin Brown and Heather Mills.

Only an 11th-hour intervention by a solicitor yesterday prevented a deserter from the Serbian army being placed on a flight back to Budapest, through which he had travelled on the way to England.

News of his threatened deportation came in the wake of the international political storm after reports in the Independent that 36 asylum-seekers had been deported. Ministers had rejected a plea from the United Nations High Commisioner for Refugees that the Government stop its deportation policy and share the burden of hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing the war zones.

The case of the army deserter and others reported to the Independent was taken up by Sir Russell Johnston, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on foreign affairs, when he met Lady Chalker. 'She said she would communicate to the Home Office that they should be less rigid than they appear to have been,' he said. Sir Russell, who met Baroness Chalker after visiting the Serbian sector of the war zone, said it was 'shameful' for Britain to refuse to allow refugees from the fighting to enter this country. He is planning to take up detailed cases with Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary.

Lady Chalker also said Britain would be prepared to increase its aid for the refugees. Britain has committed pounds 28m to the European Community effort and pounds 7m directly to the area of the fighting.

But she made it clear that the Government would reserve the right to refuse entry to refugees. Downing Street said last night that they would be turned back if they had spent some time in other countries before travelling to Britain.