Immigration minister Liam Byrne yesterday refused to rule out extending the controversial policy that can lead to the children of failed asylum seekers being taken into care.
Byrne told parliament’s joint committee on human rights that, although evaluation had found that the policy had not performed well in returning failed asylum seekers to their countries of origin, he had heard views supporting it.
The policy – under section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc) Act 2004 – is being piloted in London, Manchester and Leeds.
So far the children of five of the 113 families involved have been taken into care.
The minister said: “The conclusions are that the policy has not been a breakthrough policy in achieving its intended outcome to encourage people who don’t have a right to be here to go home. But equally there has been some quite strong views put to me that it could in some circumstances be something that would be good to have.”
When asked why the evaluation had not been published 18 months after it had taken place, Byrne said that was his fault as he had wanted to “test” its conclusions “a bit further” for himself.
Committee chair Labour MP Andrew Dismore criticised the policy. He said: “This is Cathy Come Home territory that you are applying to asylum seekers because they are an unpopular group. Is this a humane way to treat families? Children being put into care separated from their parents for ministerial convenience.”
Byrne said the long-awaited consultation on services for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children would be published next week. He said councils would not receive extra funding under the plans but urged them to use existing resources more effectively.
He also refused to rule out the use of dental x-rays on the group to determine their age, under the proposals.
Check out the Child Minder’s view