MPs want assurances that measures in the new asylum bill will not
lead to large numbers of children being taken into care.
Members of the home affairs committee say it is “unsatisfactory”
that Home Office minister Beverley Hughes is unable to estimate how
many families it might affect.
However, they do back the principle behind Clause 7 in the Asylum
and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants etc) Bill, which denies
support to families whose asylum claims have failed.
Their report into the bill, which received its second reading this
week, says the priority “should be to improve the removal system”
so that failed claims lead to removal. If the clause is brought
into effect, the government should report each year on the number
of children taken into care as a result.
Children’s charities and refugee groups have criticised the clause,
and British Association of Social Workers director Ian Johnston
wrote to home secretary David Blunkett last week urging him to
The committee supports the simplification of the appeals process in
principle, but emphasises that the “real flaws” in the system
appear to be at initial decision-making stage. It calls for the
reforms to be postponed until improvements are made.
The MPs back the government’s plan to penalise those who
deliberately destroy their travel documents, but insist that people
arriving in the UK should be warned of the potential consequences
Several proposals – including electronically tagging asylum seekers
– were not announced before the bill’s publication and the
committee was unable to take evidence on these or explore the
Hughes said she shared the committee’s concern to ensure that
initial decisions were of a high quality, but could not accept the
recommendation that the new appeals process be delayed until
improvements were made.
The Home Office also announced that the express authority of the
immigration minister would now be required to detain any child for
longer than 28 days in centres such as Dungavel, Lanarkshire. This
follows calls from churches, MPs and charities for Dungavel to be
– Home affairs committee report from www.parliament.uk