Peers have voted in favour of legislation that would place a duty on immigration authorities to safeguard and promote the welfare of children.
During a debate on the Children and Young Person’s Bill this week, peers argued that a Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) code of practice on dealing with children was insufficient. Peers amended the bill in order to place a duty on the BIA.
Baronness Morris of Bolton said: “The overwhelming view is that a statutory duty is a more appropriate way to ensure that the welfare of these children is promoted and that their interests are safeguarded.”
Supporting the amendment, Baronness Walmsley accused the government of taking a “negative attitude” to the welfare of children under the immigration system while Lord Bishop of Portsmouth called the government’s continued refusal to place the duty on the BIA “nothing short of discrimination”.
Speaking for the government, Lord Adonis argued that the BIA’s code of practice, introduced last year, had a “statutory effect”. He urged peers “not to impede the legitimate workings of the immigration system” by supporting the amendment to the Children and Young Person’s Bill.
In response, 173 peers voted in support of the amendment, and 119 against it.
The bill now moves to its third reading in the Lords on March 25, before entering the Commons.
Code of practice
Peers had previously failed to place a duty on the BIA to safeguard and promote the welfare of children by amending the Children Act 2004.
The BIA code of practice for dealing with children was introduced under the UK Borders Act 2007 and is currently under consultation.