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Tuesday, October 12, 1999 Published at 08:47 GMT 09:47 UK

UK Politics

Straw seeks Euro asylum rules

The home secretary wants a level playing field throughout the EU

The home secretary is ready to ask his European counterparts to bring in a level playing field across Europe for asylum-seekers.

Jack Straw: "We want a level playing field"
Jack Straw denied newspaper reports that he is seeking to curb UK judges from taking an "over liberal" approach to asylum.

He told the BBC: "I'm not being critical of the judges and the whole time I have had this job I have never been critical of them.

"But what I have done is observe - which is simply a statement of fact - which is that the interpretation of our obligations has under the 1951 Refugee Convention by our courts is wider than by most equivalent courts in Europe and that does place us in difficulties.

The home secretary said: "What we are anxious to achieve is a level judicial playing field across Europe. And that requires some action by European governments."

Mr Straw is expected to raise the issues at an upcoming EU summit in Finland on home affairs which will be attended by the prime minister.

The conference will also consider creating a task force to deal with criminals who exploit the single market and the lack of internal borders across the European Union.

Home Office sources say Mr Straw's determination to address the asylum system has been inspired by two recent rulings which he believes has made the UK system weaker than equivalents in Europe.

One involved a woman who a judge ruled should not be returned to Pakistan for fear of being a victim of domestic violence.

A second ruling said that asylum seekers could not be sent back to France or Germany as they would receive tougher treatment.

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