Home Office will repeal ban on help for failed asylum seekers

Asylum campaigners have hailed government proposals to repeal a controversial law that withdrew support from failed asylum ­seekers.

Lisa Nandy, chair of the Refugee Children’s Consortium, said the Home Office’s announcement was a “victory not only in a moral sense, but also for common sense”.

The proposed repeal of section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 was contained in a consultation launched last week.

Nandy said section 9 had “absolutely wreaked havoc” by withdrawing financial and housing support from asylum-seeking families whose claims had been rejected, leaving them destitute and facing the possibility of their children being taken into care.

The result of section 9 had been “counter to what the government wanted”, Nandy added, with “few families” subject to its conditions returning to their countries of origin.

Review criticism

In the consultation, the Home Office said: “Under the new legislation, we will ensure that families with no protection needs continue to be supported where the alternative would be recourse to local authority services. However, it is important that these families are helped to accept that they have no lawful basis upon which to stay in the United Kingdom and must leave.”

A government-commissioned review of section 9 reported in 2007 that it had failed in its aim to persuade asylum-seekers to co-operate with their removal from the UK.

Only one of 116 families involved in pilots of Section 9 in London, Leeds and Manchester between December 2004 and December 2005 was removed from the country.

Not all of the Home Office’s proposals were as well received as those on section 9, though.

Grace period

Another stated that, after a three-month grace period, families who have been told to leave the country would have to live in UK Border Agency accommodation and would not have access to cash. Instead, they would be provided with a payment card loaded with £35 a week.

Refugee Council spokesperson Hannah Ward said this proposal went against the UKBA’s stated commitment earlier this month to safeguard and promote the welfare of children in the immigration, asylum and customs systems.

“We think it flies in the face of that promise and makes a mockery of it,” she said. “The government says that it’s prepared to protect these children, but it still detains families and now they’re proposing to make their lives absolutely miserable.”

The consultation was published alongside a draft Immigration Bill, and is open until 4 February.

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