House of Lords rebuffs government plans for housing asylum seekers

Government plans to house asylum seekers in four 750-bed
accommodation centres in the countryside were defeated in the House
of Lords last week.

During a debate on the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill,
peers rejected home secretary David Blunkett’s plan to accommodate
asylum seekers.

Instead, Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers succeeded with an
amendment for accommodation centres to be restricted to 250 places
and be located in suitable areas for asylum seekers.

The House of Lords also voted against controversial plans to
educate the children of asylum seekers in the centres themselves
instead of in mainstream schools.

A Home Office spokesperson said the defeats would not mean the bill
would automatically have to return for further debate, pointing out
that the House of Commons had already given it a third reading by
an overwhelming majority.

“Accommodation centres are key to the government’s asylum reform
programme and we continue to believe firmly that the government’s
case is the correct one,” she said. However, the spokesperson added
that the government would consider the implications of the House of
Lords’ vote before deciding on its next step.

Jessica Yudilevich, head of advocacy at the the Refugee Council,
said: “We hope the government will listen very carefully to the
widespread concern expressed in the House of Lords regarding the
siting of accommodation centres and the proposed exclusion of
children from local schools.”

The government also last week announced new measures to tackle
abuse of the asylum system.

These include the introduction of a list of 10 “safe and
democratic” countries that are to join the European Union, such as
the Czech Republic and Poland, from which any asylum claims would
be presumed unfounded. Applicants from these countries would have
to appeal from outside the UK.

This measure and another, which ends the presumption of support for
people who apply for asylum in this country outside of airports or
ports without good reason, were due to be debated in the House of
Lords this week.

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