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William Hague
"We must not allow this country to reinforce its growing image as a soft touch for asylum seekers."
 real 28k

Robin Corbett
"It wasn't as if they were trying to leave the country."
 real 28k

Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 13:51 GMT
Asylum pleas 'will not be met'

Reports say 40 members of one family were on board


UK Home Secretary Jack Straw has told MPs that the hostages released from the hijacking at Stansted airport will be told to leave as quickly as possible.

Mr Straw made the announcement in a Commons statement following the peaceful end of the hostage drama at Stansted airport early on Thursday morning.

He said: "Subject to compliance with all legal requirements I would wish to see removed from this country all those on the plane as soon as reasonably practicable."


We will respond resolutely to any attempts like this to use terrorist methods, whether the aim is to advance a political cause or to benefit the individuals concerned.
Jack Straw
Mr Straw told the House that 60 of the former hostages had told immigration officers they wished to apply for asylum along with 14 of their dependants.

The rest of the passengers have yet to make their wishes known.

The Home Secretary added that as the flight had begun as an internal journey within Afghanistan, "it seems inconceivable that persons on the flight could have intended to claim political asylum unless of course they were complicit in the hijacking."



'Why us?'

Responding to Mr Straw's statement, the shadow home secretary Ann Widdecombe asked simply: "Why the UK?"

She asked Mr Straw if the hijackers had deliberately targeted the UK as a soft touch for asylum seekers.

Miss Widdecombe urged the Home Secretary to ensure that the UK's regulations on asylum were not softer "than those of surrounding countries".

It has been reported that one of the asylum-seekers had 40 members of his family on board the Ariana Boeing 727.


This cannot become the way to seek political asylum on top of all the others, there are too many already
William Hague
"Speaking earlier the Tory leader William Hague said: We must not allow this country to reinforce its growing image as a soft touch for asylum seekers.

'Political asylum'

"While all asylum cases must be looked at on their merits, we must look at it against this background. This cannot become the way to seek political asylum on top of all the others, there are too many already."

More than 71,000 applications were received last year, according to the Home Office, a 50% rise on the previous year.

Hostages have a right to apply for asylum
Asked whether those who boarded the plane knowing they would fly to the UK should be returned to Afghanistan, Mr Hague said he believed they should.

But Robin Corbett, chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, said he believed that the hostages would be unable to claim asylum.

He said: "They have a right under the international conventions, to which we have signed up to, to make asylum applications but it would be my judgement that they would find that exceptionally difficult to sustain since they were all on an internal flight.

"It wasn't as if they were trying to leave the country.

"The background of this makes an application for asylum extremely difficult, in my judgement."

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See also:
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Stern response to hostages' asylum plea
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack ordeal over
08 Feb 00 |  UK
Ex-hijackers wait for asylum
08 Feb 00 |  UK
Crew flee hijack plane
07 Feb 00 |  South Asia
Analysis: Who are the hijackers?

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