Debates between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford during the 2019 Parliament

Tue 8th Feb 2022
Thu 3rd Feb 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Thu 27th Jan 2022
Nationality and Borders Bill
Lords Chamber

Lords Hansard - Part 2 & Committee stage: Part 2
Tue 25th May 2021
Wed 14th Apr 2021
Thu 3rd Dec 2020
Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Mon 16th Nov 2020
Mon 9th Nov 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Consideration of Commons amendmentsPing Pong (Hansard) & Consideration of Commons amendments
Wed 30th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report stage & Report stage:Report: 1st sitting & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Mon 28th Sep 2020
Mon 14th Sep 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee stage:Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard) & Committee: 3rd sitting (Hansard): House of Lords
Tue 21st Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report stage:Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Wed 15th Jan 2020
European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill
Lords Chamber

Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage:Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords

UK-Rwanda Asylum Partnership Arrangement

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 25th April 2022

(2 years, 1 month ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I am sure that people will find ways and means of doing that should they be motivated to do so. I go back to the point about both the EU and UNHCR engaging with Rwanda on the relocation of asylum seekers and refugees.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, the Minister said that there would be ample opportunity to debate this issue. We do not have any ample opportunity; what assurance can we have? There are so many questions of detail to which we do not know the answer. It is just a con trick by the Government, and they should come clean on the details before they remove a single person to Rwanda.

Home Office Visas for Ukrainians

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 10th March 2022

(2 years, 2 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I can certainly undertake to do that for my noble friend.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, it is not as if we have not had weeks of notice that this was going to happen. What has been going on? Has the Minister looked at today’s papers—not necessarily the Guardian but the Conservative-supporting papers? They are all appalled. British public opinion is appalled at what has been going on. If Ukrainians who do not have family connections wish to seek safety here, what is the pathway for them to do it? Will there be limits? Will they be able to come easily or will it be more difficult? This morning, I had a desperate email from somebody asking if we could take 80 orphans. What is the policy?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord might recall me talking this week about the humanitarian sponsorship pathway, which is for Ukrainians without family in the UK who want to come here. There is no cap on the number of people who can come. All they need is a sponsor. As was mentioned previously, we have been inundated with offers. One thing that I discussed this morning with Richard Harrington was how we capture that generosity and ensure that the people who want to help can help.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken to this group of amendments. I hope in what I am about to say that there will be at least some acknowledgment of the compassion and decency that we have shown as a country in the last few years—actually, the last few decades. It is such a hallmark of us as a nation. I also pay tribute to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. Believe it or not, we like each other very much—we just disagree on quite a lot. But we have worked together in a civilised and friendly manner over the last few years, and long may that continue.

On the point about decency and compassion, Amendment 112 aims to expand the scope of the refugee family reunion policy. Under that policy, we have granted visas to over 39,000 people since 2015, over half of them being children, as the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, pointed out. So, to answer the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Moulsecoomb, we have looked into our hearts. We already have several routes for refugees to bring family members to join them in the UK, and it is important to carefully consider the impact of further amending our policy.

Family unity is a key priority, but noble Lords will know that we have a range of aims further to this, including ensuring that we have reasonable control over immigration and that public services such as schools and hospitals—and I think that it was the noble Lord, Lord Green of Deddington, who talked about the infrastructure of this country—are not placed under unreasonable pressure. However, I recognise that in some cases there will be exceptional and compassionate circumstances which warrant a grant of leave. To answer the noble Baroness, Lady Ludford, the guidance on exceptional circumstances will be published in due course. That is why our policy ensures that there is always discretion to grant visas outside the Immigration Rules, which may cater for the sorts of cases that do not immediately fall within our legal framework.

In terms of allowing child refugees to sponsor family members under this proposed clause, noble Lords will at least grant that I have been consistent in opposing that sort of policy, because of its negative consequences. It is highly likely that this would create further incentives for more children to be encouraged—or even, sadly, forced—to leave their family and risk extremely dangerous journeys to the UK in order to sponsor relatives. Such an approach would open children up to a huge exploitation risk, which completely contradicts the hard work and commitment of the Home Office in protecting children from modern slavery and exploitation. We refuse to play into the hands of criminal gangs, and we cannot extend this policy to allow child refugees to sponsor family members into the UK.

Beyond this, many of the conditions set out in this new clause are already included in our current family reunion policy and are taken into consideration when decisions are made inside or outside the rules. All noble Lords in Committee should have a copy of the various routes. Our prime consideration in all cases is the best interest of the child in question—and so it should be. As the number of visas we have granted under this policy reflects, we are committed to maintaining family unity for refugees. Caseworkers are encouraged to use discretion in considering whether entry may be granted in family reunion cases. By setting out conditions in primary legislation, we would lose the individuality of consideration, and the discretion of caseworkers would be void. I can assure the Committee that all relevant elements of each case are thoroughly considered on their merits under this policy, and there is no need to set it out in statute.

I turn to Amendment 113, on family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking minors. I cannot support this proposed new clause. It tries to recreate the EU’s Dublin regulation in UK law with respect to unaccompanied children who have claimed asylum in an EEA state but have family members in the UK. When the UK sought to raise these matters with the EU, our proposals had very clear safeguards for children. This proposed new clause has none. It creates entitlements to come to the UK to claim asylum if the minor has specified relatives but it fails to consider the individual needs of the child. It does not consider whether the UK relative can actually take care of the child or whether the child would be better placed with a relative, potentially an even closer relative, in another safe EEA state.

The other point about this proposal is that it does not work unilaterally. I am sure the noble Lord will concur with that. It requires co-operation from EEA states. It is not possible to legislate through this Bill to take children out of other countries’ care and support mechanisms or their asylum systems. That requires agreement between states, which might not be possible and is certainly unlikely in the timescale of six months set out in the clause.

I see that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, is about to stand up. Might I finish this point about the EU before he does? As he knows, we sought to negotiate with the EU on UASC family reunion and continue to talk to it on this important issue. However, at this point I cannot comment further.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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I am grateful to the Minister for giving way. I hate to go over the past, but the whole point of having the Dublin III treaty in the 2017 Act—which was taken out in the 2019 Act, as I said—is that it has to be based on reciprocity. That was a sensible way forward; it is why we wanted to go down that path. That was the path blocked by the Government in the 2019 Act.

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to all Members who have contributed to the debate and to the Minister for her stamina in continuing and continuing. I am sure she will go on until the early hours with great strength.

I will comment very briefly, as is my right. First, we had a very unusual thing happen tonight—

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am sorry to the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, but I should respond to the noble Baroness, Lady Chakrabarti, because I think he is about to wind up. We have generally done specific schemes for specific purposes and in responding to specific crises. We have the VPRS, the VCRS, the UK resettlement scheme and the ARAP scheme, and we will be doing the ACRS. They have all been non-statutory and I was trying to explain that we will be continuing in that vein for specific purposes, so that we can accommodate the most vulnerable. I hope that partly answers her question.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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I had already begun saying my thanks and praising the Minister for her stamina. I will comment very briefly that something amazing has happened this evening. Amendment 116, in the name of four Conversative Members of the Committee, is much more radical than anything produced by the Cross-Benchers, the Lib Dems, the Greens, the Labour Party or the Bishops’ Bench. It is amazing and I wonder what is happening to the Conservative Party here. I welcome Amendment 116.

I will comment very briefly on my Amendment 115. It very clearly says, “in consultation with local authorities”. There is no number set and no obligation, other than to consult with local authorities and set the number accordingly. Of course, I welcome the national transfer scheme. It should not be instead of the principles in Amendment 115, but it is very important that not all the pressure is on Kent and Croydon.

Lastly, the Minister mentioned the large number coming in lorries across the channel, but the figures will show—I am sorry that I do not have the full figures here—that, in recent years, the number coming in the back of lorries has been higher, but they have been replaced by the ones coming on boats. The total numbers are actually fewer, even though the ones in boats are more obvious.

I again thank Members of the Committee for the part they played in this debate, and I beg leave to withdraw my amendment.

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Can I write to the noble Baroness on that? I suspect that I will misspeak if I try to answer because there are several things in that question that I am thinking about. I hope that she is okay for me to write to her.

The definition of a safe third state is already set out in the clause. It ensures that, even if a country is not a signatory to the refugee convention, the principles of the convention should be met if we are to remove an individual to that country. It defines safe third countries as states where an individual will not be sent to another state where they would be at risk of persecution or a breach of their Article 3 ECHR rights. This is consistent with our obligation under the refugee convention to ensure that individuals are not subject to refoulement; I keep pronouncing it as “refowlment”, which is completely wrong. This definition has been part of our previous legislation on safe countries and is a widely recognised definition of a safe third state; it is used in EU law under the procedures directive.

I want to come to point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, that the UNHCR says that we are breaking the refugee convention. There are three groups of amendments on this in Committee—not today, but shortly, so I will not go too much into the convention. We have already touched on it. We think that everything we are doing complies with our international obligations, including the convention. The first safe country principle is the fastest route to safety and widely recognised internationally. It is a fundamental feature of the Common European Asylum System. It is self-evident that those in need of protection should claim in the first safe country and that is the fastest route to safety.

There are different ways in which an individual may be protected and not all of them require entitlements that fall under the refugee convention. To define a safe third state in the way that is suggested by these amendments ignores the fact that other forms of protection are available to individuals which ensure that these countries are safe for them to be removed to. We will only ever remove inadmissible claimants to countries that are safe. Using this definition is not a new approach. It has been part of our previous legislation on safe countries. I do not think these amendments are necessary.

On Amendment 70, the ability to remove an individual declared inadmissible to any safe country has formed a part of our inadmissibility process since the changes to the Immigration Rules in December 2020. This amendment would remove a provision that Parliament has already had the opportunity to scrutinise. The aim of these provisions is to disincentivise people from seeking to enter the UK by dangerous means facilitated by criminals. They send a clear message that those arriving via an irregular route may be eligible to be transferred to another safe country, not of their choosing, to be processed.

I do not agree with the premise of Amendments 71 to 73A and 195. Agreements by a safe third country to accept an asylum seeker may not always be via a reciprocal or formal arrangement. It is right to seek removals on a case-by-case basis where appropriate. Doing so has formed a part of our inadmissibility process since the changes to the Immigration Rules in December 2020. I do not think that these provisions are unworkable without formal agreements in place. That said, I do not disagree with the need to get formal agreements in place. Without providing that running commentary, that is what we are working on doing.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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Will the Minister confirm that to date we do not have an agreement with any country for the return of the people she is talking about?

Nationality and Borders Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I shall write to noble Lords about this in more detail, because it is quite detailed, and explain where the figures have derived from. I was actually quoting the judge in his conclusion that an “obvious route to abuse” would be opened. I shall send the figures to the noble Baroness. On case sampling, many of the cases have a poor immigration history, with 79% of the parents having no leave at the time of the birth and only 16% having such leave, but I will outline it to noble Lords in greater detail and they can draw their own conclusion.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I have tried to follow the Minister’s reply, and I am bound to say that I too am a little confused about these figures. I think she has just not yet made her case. Please could she give us more information before we get to Report? If not, we will not be persuaded by this. I may not have been quick enough to pick up all the nuances—I do not think any of us were, really; it was quite difficult. I look forward to getting more information from her; we shall have to listen to what she has to say. I am grateful to noble Lords who contributed to the debate, and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Small Boats Incident in the Channel

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 25th November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend is absolutely right, and of course he caveats that by saying that the methods by which people are turned back have to be safe. That is essential.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I want to ask the Minister a specific question. A large number of unaccompanied child refugees are sleeping rough in Calais and Dunkirk tonight. Does anything she has said give them any hope of moving away from there, other than that they should get on a boat if they can find a trafficker?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, we do not want a child to get on a boat if they can find a trafficker. I assume that is why those children are there: someone, somewhere, hopes they will find a trafficker to bring them to the UK. We have mechanisms for bringing unaccompanied asylum-seeking children here. We are not bound by the European Union now; we are bound by our obligations to the whole world. I know that the House and the noble Lord still refer to the EU, but we are focusing on vulnerability from across the world.

Refugees: Status

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 2nd November 2021

(2 years, 6 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what recent discussions they have had with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees in relation to the Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, and in particular regarding the principle that asylum seekers must apply for refugee status in the first safe country they have reached.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the Nationality and Borders Bill, which is part of our new plan for immigration, seeks to build a fair but firm asylum and legal migration system. Those in need of protection should claim in the first safe country they reach. That is the fastest route to safety. The plan complies with our international obligations and we continue to engage with our partners, including the UNHCR, with whom we have a positive and constructive relationship, as we take the plan forward.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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Is the Minister not saying, in effect, that the Government know better than the UNHCR, the UNHCR being the guardian of the 1951 convention? By what right and by what argument are the Government saying that the UNHCR is wrong on this?

EU Borders: Refugees from Afghanistan

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 9th September 2021

(2 years, 8 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord talked about a mid-August debate—I do not recall, but I may have misheard him. On asylum seekers, I certainly agree with him on several fronts, including that asylum applications should be expedited as quickly as possible. However, I do not agree that we should grant asylum to people en bloc because we need to be very sure that the people we welcome here are not a threat to this country.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, in discussions with the European Union, are the Government seeking to distinguish between those Afghans who left after the Taliban takeover and those who fled the Taliban before the takeover and reached Europe some time ago? Surely they should all be treated equally.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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Again, as I said to the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, every asylum application should be treated on its merit. If a person left Afghanistan some time ago, before the Taliban takeover, and their application is in the system, that application will be treated on a case-by-case basis. Clearly, others came through Operation Pitting and the ARAP scheme. I repeat: anyone who finds themselves in Europe should claim asylum in the first safe country that they reach.

EU Settlement Scheme

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 1st July 2021

(2 years, 10 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I can confirm to my noble friend that not all applications concluded are accepted. There will be some specific cohorts of people who will not have their applications accepted; for example, for various reasons to do with offending or for reasons of national concern. However, as regards the physical document, the EU settlement scheme was designed precisely to avoid a Windrush-type event, where immigration status was automatically conferred on people by an Act of Parliament but with no record made of it. Successful applicants under the EU settlement scheme receive a digital immigration status that provides that secure evidence of their status.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the original estimates made by the Home Office represent about half the number of people eligible under the scheme? Will she further confirm that when the figures were last produced, at least 300 children had not been identified? Given that, it is likely that there will be many more than 300. Therefore, while I welcome the Minister’s commitment that the scheme for children will be open indefinitely, is there not a concern that there will be a large number of children whom the Home Office have not identified and who may still not be aware of their position in the years to come?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I totally acknowledge the noble Lord’s point about children who in years to come might not have that status and therefore will need to apply for it. That is why the scheme, which accepts reasonable excuses for why somebody has not applied, will remain open indefinitely. I hope the noble Lord will be happy that 67% of children in care have applied. That is a great figure but support will be ongoing to encourage those children to apply. The noble Lord’s point about the Home Office underestimating the number of people who might apply for settled status is absolutely right. So did the3million, hence its name. We now have 5.6 million applications, which is a very encouraging figure.

Net Migration

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 25th May 2021

(3 years ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, the noble Lord is right that the new points-based system that we intend to roll out is open to the entire world. Interestingly, the MAC advice was that the cap be abolished and that it would make sense to reduce migration numbers by varying other aspects of the scheme criteria—for example, the salary threshold and the level of the immigration service charge.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, is not one consequence of the Government’s stated policy that we are doing enormous damage to our economy, particularly in areas where there are labour shortages, such as agriculture, horticulture and social care? In the attempt to keep the numbers down, is there not a danger that we will be breaching the human rights of asylum seekers simply because their mode of travel is not acceptable to the Government?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, one of the things we discussed in previous debates was employers in this country not seeking to use cheap migrant labour but to rely on our domestic labour supply. We want a fair system for asylum seekers with safe, legal routes.

Immigration

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 14th April 2021

(3 years, 1 month ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I will answer two of those questions. Eighteen is the cut-off age because 18 is the age of an adult, and we do not want adults sharing classrooms with young children, for example. It is important to assess people’s ages, and we will try to do so on a more scientific basis. The noble Baroness is absolutely right that applications fell in 2020. We had a pandemic and everything fell in 2020—so did returns. I am sure that the applications will be back up this year.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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In the recent past, the Government have closed down two safe and legal routes for unaccompanied child refugees to reach this country from the continent—the Dubs amendment and the provisions under the Dublin treaty. How can the Minister reconcile closing down those routes with the claim that the Government want only safe and legal routes for people to come to this country? She has made that virtually impossible. Are not the Government getting very close to saying that family reunion will depend on the method by which somebody arrived in the UK, not the merits of their case? Surely we are turning the clock back in a most retrograde manner.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I disagree that we have closed down routes. The Dubs scheme specified a number, which was subsequently increased to 480. It was based on the ability of local authorities to take children—the noble Lord shakes his head, but he knows that. We did not close it down; we successfully completed it. As for Dublin, we left the European Union, so we were never going to continue it. As I said during the passage of the immigration Bill, all the routes would continue to be open and we are now in consultation on what our new sovereign borders and immigration system will look like.

Refugees: Napier Barracks

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 11th February 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the living conditions for refugees in Napier Barracks.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, throughout the pandemic, the asylum system has faced significant pressures, and it has become necessary to use additional temporary accommodation to ensure that we meet our statutory obligations at all times. The Government provide destitute asylum seekers with accommodation that is fit for purpose and correctly equipped in line with existing asylum accommodation standards and contractual requirements.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, since I had a brief discussion with the Minister a few days ago about this issue, I have learned far more about what is going on. Surely it is unacceptable that asylum seekers—some of whom have suffered dreadfully, including from torture—should be held in conditions where Covid sufferers cannot self-isolate, where there is inadequate medical attention or support, and where there is a lack of hot food and hot water. Surely the Home Office should not be opening more barracks but should be finding decent accommodation for such vulnerable people.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I would reject the description of “decent accommodation” —this accommodation has served our Armed Forces. We are manging any outbreaks in line with Covid guidance, and everyone staying at those barracks has a decent standard of living, including heat, food and accommodation.

EU-UK Joint Political Declaration on Asylum and Returns

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 28th January 2021

(3 years, 3 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what steps they are taking to implement the United Kingdom-European Union Joint Political Declaration on Asylum and Returns.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the joint political declaration notes the importance of effectively managing migratory flows between the UK and the EU. The UK will continue to engage bilaterally and multilaterally with member states with which we have a mutual interest on returns or family reunions of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. This reaffirms the important commitments already made in Parliament. This work is ongoing.

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that, yesterday at a Holocaust Memorial Day event, her Cabinet colleague Robert Jenrick made a very positive statement about refugees. May I ask her specifically about the discussions that are taking place about child refugees with EU countries? Have these discussions started? If not, when will they start and with which countries will they take place?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I know I will disappoint the noble Lord when I say that I will not be giving a running commentary on discussions but, yes, they have started and will be ongoing.

Immigration Rules: Supported Accommodation

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 17th December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I know that my right honourable friend the Home Secretary will take note of, and reflect on, the judgment before making a decision, and I am sure that I will update the House in due course.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister will be aware that, under the Dublin III regulations, which come to an end at the end of this month, no child can be returned to the country they came from because that would not be in their best interests. What is to be the position from 1 January?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, any cases which are live—as we term them—before 31 December will be dealt with in the ensuing period. As I have said to the noble Lord before, there will be a statement on my right honourable friend the Home Secretary’s ambition for a firm and fair immigration system for the future within three months of Royal Assent to the immigration Bill.

Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I say again that each situation will be different, but I understand the noble Lord’s point that if the CHIS is acting as instructed, but the handler has gone beyond where they should have gone, it would be the handler’s authorising officer who would be liable for that activity. There would be an investigation, but at that point, we are talking about a theoretical case. If it was the handler who had acted beyond their purview, the handler would be liable for that handling activity, or the authorising officer. It is late, I am tired, and I have suddenly forgotten my thread.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to the debate. I have to lead with what the Minister said. I feel that her interpretation of the part of the Bill we are talking about was nearer to the spirit of the amendment than the wording of the clause itself. That is why I want to have a look at it. As for what my noble friend Lord Sikka said, I was not aware that a person in the Bill could be a corporate body. I fear he has an important point, but maybe it is not quite in the scope of the Bill. I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Security Co-operation

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 2nd December 2020

(3 years, 5 months ago)

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the future of security cooperation across Europe from January 2021.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, we will continue to work closely with our European partners to tackle shared security threats, promoting the safety and security of all our citizens. We also continue to work closely with operational partners to ensure that we are ready for a range of possible outcomes at the end of the year. The UK will continue to be a global leader on security and one of the safest countries in the world.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, does the Minister agree that we are threatened by cybercrime, other forms of serious crime, violent extremism and terrorism and that, if we leave the EU without a sensible deal on security co-operation, we will lose access to data, the European arrest warrant and Europol? On access to data, will she confirm that we use the Schengen Information System 600 million times a year? Surely our membership of the European Court of Justice, which is a government red line, is trivial compared to the need to keep our people safe and save lives in this country.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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We have always said that there would be a mutual loss of capability in the event that the UK no longer had access to SIS II. That is why we have offered to reach an agreement with the EU that delivers a similar capability. The Commission has stated its view that it is not legally possible for a non-Schengen third country to co-operate through SIS II and that a future agreement between the UK and the EU need not provide similar capabilities. We regret this and have maintained our offer to the EU.

Child Trafficking

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 16th November 2020

(3 years, 6 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I agree that certainty is crucial for anyone who has undergone such a trauma. A discretionary leave to remain provision is already in place. On the question of when a conclusive grant decision is made, this Government are committed to supporting people who have undergone that trauma, but the two do not necessarily go together. Sometimes they do, but we should not conflate immigration with the support needed for victims of modern slavery. They do not necessarily go hand in glove. However, I understand my noble friend’s premise—that people need support when they are most vulnerable.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister referred on more than one occasion to the generosity of the British Government in that 75% of unaccompanied child refugees are given a status to remain here, usually asylum status. Does she not agree that the majority of them have been trafficked, and that it would be far better to give them safe and legal routes to the UK rather than having them become victims of traffickers, with all the risks of the dangerous journey across the channel?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord goes to the heart of the problem: traffickers are at the heart of all these awful crimes, some of which result in the deaths of people crossing the channel and suchlike. Safe and legal routes are at the heart of our philosophy, as my right honourable friend the Home Secretary has laid out.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken in this debate. The gap was mentioned. I hope that I outlined in my speech the substantial number of routes available, whatever people’s circumstances, to apply to come here and seek our refuge and asylum.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, asked me three specific questions. The first was whether, if there are changes to the Immigration Rules, we can publish them in draft form. The answer is yes. He asked whether we could publish the guidance before 31 December. I said in my speech and will reiterate that I will ensure that the guidance reflects the position and update it if necessary. I would be happy to update it if changes are needed by 31 December. I am also happy to take his views on the review process on board. I think that was it from him so, in a nutshell, I am happy to do all those things.

My noble friend Lady Neville-Rolfe stressed the importance of safe and legal routes, not the child trafficking that we see at the moment. She talked about the cost of these things being important. Of course it is; it will be considered in due course.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Southwark talked about Dublin ending and routes closing down. I have explained that, as we are leaving the European Union, Dublin will come to an end, but we will not close any of our existing routes. Just to illustrate some of the numbers, as I mentioned in my speech, we issued 6,320 family reunion visas in the year ending June 2020, which contrasts with 532 family reunion transfers under Articles 8, 9 and 10 of Dublin. All the routes that I set out earlier are and will continue to be in force.

The noble Lord, Lord Alton, talked about children who are dying, trafficked and missing, and the criminal gangs who exploit them. I could not agree with him more, but this exists as Dublin does, so the safe and legal routes are absolutely essential. My right honourable friend the Home Secretary is completely focused on this. I can also confirm this afternoon that the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme will restart as soon as possible. It has to be safe to do so, but it will restart. I have some lines on it but I cannot find them.

The noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, talked about the review being linked to safe mechanisms. That is why we are doing it: for safe and legal routes. We could not be clearer. She made an interesting point, asking why we are mentioning lives lost and criminals together. We are mentioning them because that is why people die—because criminals encourage them to take dangerous routes across the very dangerous English Channel and other seas. That is why they die. She also asked about the wider timetable, which we will include in the Statement that we are committed to. She asked whether the consultation is wider than just UASCs and, yes, it is. Family reunions for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children is just part of the wider issue. She also talked about getting people to visa application centres. This morning I talked about that issue to my right honourable friend the Immigration Minister, who is looking at it.

I hope that I have demonstrated how the gap will be filled, and have demonstrated my commitment to all the things that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has asked of me, and that he can withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate, giving evidence to support the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Alton, that parliamentary debate is a good thing, which clarifies issues and highlights our concerns, and is therefore an essential part of our democratic process.

I will make a few brief comments before getting to the nub of what the Minister said. I believe firmly that, if there are safe and legal routes, fewer people are trafficked, and fewer people want to be trafficked. I heard of a refugee child, I think near Calais, who apparently said: “Does it mean that there will be no safe of getting to the UK after Brexit to join my family?” As Brexit has happened, he probably meant the transition period. Clearly he was concerned that, if there was no way of getting to join his family, he would be forced to do the dangerous thing of crossing the channel. I appreciate that the Minister quoted some numbers, but many of those have come as the result of trafficking. We want a safe and legal route so that children can come without the awful risk to their lives, a proper way of bringing them over without everybody arriving in Kent, which is a burden on the local authorities. However, I am sure that we will scrutinise the Minister’s words very carefully. They will be subject to forensic analysis, to see what the Government are saying.

The Minister did not say that she would publish the guidance but that it would be updated. One argument in favour of publishing it is that the Immigration Rules give officials a lot of discretion, and a concern underlying my amendment is that this discretion has in the past been used against the interests of refugee children. If the guidance ensures what I believe is the main aim of this debate—that no child should be disadvantaged through the ending of the Dublin regulation—then we are there. If the Minister can only assure me that the guidance will be published and that, while it cannot guarantee it in every case, it will aim to ensure that no child will be disadvantaged, I would be persuaded. Can the Minister comment in the middle of my speech?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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I am quite happy to speak now if the noble Lord will take the intervention. He and I spoke last night, when he asked me for that commitment that no child be disadvantaged. Clearly, I cannot speak on every single case that may or may not happen. As I told him last night, I would be lying if I said that I could make a judgment on every case. I hope that I have outlined clearly—although I start to doubt myself, given that some noble Lords have come back on it—that there are clear routes and humanitarian grounds on which we can accept children. Therefore, I hope that through the commitments that I have made to him today, any person who has applied under Dublin will have a route open to them, as long as the sponsor has the relevant status. I hope that that comforts the noble Lord.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Report stage & Report stage (Hansard): House of Lords & Report: 1st sitting & Report: 1st sitting: House of Lords
Wednesday 30th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble Lord will appreciate that an application to the EU settlement scheme is an application, with a result of settled status being either confirmed or not. A declaratory scheme confers a deemed leave on a sort of blanket basis, as opposed to each individual applying to the scheme. Therefore, children in years to come might have to prove that they were in the scope of that declaratory scheme; that is what I mean. We are not seeking different ends in this; we are just talking about different ways of going about it. I am trying to explain why an actual application is a more secure way of going about it.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am grateful to all noble Lords who took part and contributed to the debate, even if one or two of them posed a few questions, which I shall try to deal with. I am also grateful to the Minister for her positive attitude to the end we all seek, even if the path to that end may differ in her view from our view. I emphasise that this amendment had cross-party support in the Commons and has cross-party support here, so there is a wide level of support for this.

On the question of declaratory or granted and so on, my understanding is very clearly that the intention behind it was that children would be granted settled status—not declaratory status, but settled status. The fear was that if any of them were undocumented and slipped through the net, they would be in the Windrush situation, not the other way around.

The process is, I believe, as follows: the social worker would be able to contact the Home Office directly about the individual and their background, the result of that application would be that settled status would be granted, and that would be indisputable and there could at no point in the future be any doubt about it. That seems to me pretty clear. The danger that the amendment refers to is that if there is no settled status, and the child is undocumented, then trouble can begin. In many cases, I agree that that would be picked up, but it may not be picked up in every case, and the dilemma for any young person who finds that they are undocumented and have all sorts of difficulties seems to me awful. That is the purpose of this amendment.

I might be persuaded by the Minister if she said that at Third Reading she will put forward an amendment which will deal with this apparent difficulty—I do not think it is a difficulty. I repeat that the purpose of the amendment is simply to say that they should be granted settled status—not declared to have a status, but granted settled status. That seems to be absolutely clear, and that will be the result of the social worker approaching the Home Office. In the circumstances, I beg leave to press the amendment.

Asylum System

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 28th September 2020

(3 years, 7 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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The noble and learned Baroness will know that a victim of modern slavery is not necessarily a refugee or someone who needs asylum; many of them are UK nationals. What is important is that victims of modern slavery receive the right support and help to get them out of the situation in which they have become embroiled.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, will the Minister confirm that the right to family reunion will be a basic feature of any reformed asylum system?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, outside the EU, last year we granted family reunion visas to almost 7,500 people, and have granted 29,000 since 2015, so there is a family reunion route through resettlement and we have no intention of stopping that.

Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken with such passion on these amendments; I also thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, of course, although I am not sure that I agree with his summation of our history of providing refuge for the most vulnerable children across the globe. The Government have an excellent humanitarian record in assisting vulnerable people, including children. We are one of the world’s leading refugee resettlement states. Under national resettlement schemes, we have resettled more refugees than any country in Europe and are in the top five countries worldwide. In contrast to some of the things noble Lords have been saying, we have resettled more than 25,000 refugees since 2015, around half of whom were children. We can be proud as a country of our ambitious commitments and achievements.

The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, stated that France and Germany have more asylum claims than us. That is not the case. We received 3,651 asylum claims from UASC in 2019, more than any other EU state and 20% of all claims made in the EU and UK. I hope that I have set that record straight.

The right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham asked what we have done during the pandemic. It is absolutely fair to say that it has been very difficult to resettle children for all the reasons that the pandemic has brought; however, the UK has remained open to receiving Dublin transfers. I remember that, very early on in the pandemic crisis, Minister Philp was in talks with Greece. Three group flights have taken place from Greece in recent months, on 11 May, 28 July and 6 August. We continue to make arrangements with Greek officials to facilitate transfers of people we have accepted under the regulation. I must make it clear that all arrangements to complete the transfer are the responsibility of the sending state.

There are 5,000 unaccompanied children in local authority care. I note that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, says that he knows that there are councils which would take more. I have pressed him for the last four years to tell me which councils these are and whether they would come forward to offer those places. Of course, Kent is struggling at the moment, but if there are more local authorities who can provide that protection, we would really like to hear from them.

We have given protection to nearly 45,000 children since 2010, including over 7,000 in the past year. We also issued over 7,400 family reunion visas in the year to March 2020. I do not think that is a sign of a mean country but a sign of a very small country that has done everything in its power to help the most vulnerable. In addition, once we have delivered our current commitments under the vulnerable persons resettlement scheme—with almost 20,000 to date, and we will get to 20,000—we will consolidate our main schemes into a new global UK resettlement scheme. Our priority will be to continue to identify and resettle vulnerable refugees in need of protection, as identified and referred by UNHCR.

The proposed new clause does not recognise the existing routes in our immigration system for reuniting families, nor that we are pursuing new reciprocal arrangements with the EU for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. We have tabled draft legal text for a negotiated agreement for a state-to-state referral and transfer system which would provide clear and consistent processes between the UK and EU member states, ensuring appropriate support for the child and guaranteeing reciprocity. These guarantees cannot be provided for in UK domestic provisions alone. We have acted in good faith and hope that the EU will do the same. The draft has not been rejected but—just to correct another statement made tonight—is still on the negotiating table. We will continue to provide safe and legal routes to Britain to bring together families of refugees through our refugee family reunion policy. Additionally, family members of British citizens or those granted settlement in the UK can apply to join them under Part 8 and Appendix FM of the Immigration Rules. All these routes remain in place at the end of the transition period.

The amendment tabled by the noble Lord is, unsurprisingly, based on recreating the Dublin regulation. This is obviously an EU provision, and we have now left the EU. We are a sovereign state with our own family reunion routes, which are substantial, as I have just set out. We must avoid creating further incentives for people, particularly children, to leave their families and risk those dangerous journeys. This plays into the hands of criminal gangs who exploit vulnerable people, and it goes against our safeguarding responsibilities. Allowing individuals to sponsor family members to join them in the UK before a decision on their asylum claim is made creates great uncertainty for families, who may be unable to remain in the UK. We must also guard against significantly increasing the number of people who could qualify for family reunion while not necessarily needing protection themselves, and who may be seeking to make unfounded claims on our protection systems for economic gain.

Finally, the proposed amendment would require the Government to lay before Parliament a strategy on the relocation of unaccompanied children from EEA states. The Government have no intention to lay such a strategy. It would be incredibly challenging to deliver, not least because of the pressures already faced by local authorities that are currently caring for over 5,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. That is an increase of 146% since 2014. As I said earlier, in 2019 the UK received the highest number of asylum claims from unaccompanied children in Europe, and 20% of all such claims made in the EU and UK. We only have to look at the situation in Kent in recent weeks to realise the pressure that some local authorities face. Alleviating that pressure and ensuring that unaccompanied children already in the UK receive the care they need has got to be our priority. In the longer term, we need to ensure that there is a fairer allocation of caring responsibilities across the entire country.

As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, said, in July the Government announced they had successfully completed the transfer of 480 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from Greece, France and Italy under Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016. Parliament was very clear then that this was a one-off scheme, which is now complete. We are pleased to see other countries now stepping up to support Greece by taking in unaccompanied children, and we stand ready to offer advice and guidance to member states who wish to develop their own schemes.

On that note, I thank all noble Lords for their contributions. I hope that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, will withdraw his amendment.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I am extremely grateful to all noble Lords who have spoken so supportively and passionately in favour of the amendment. I am grateful to the Minister for having laid out the Government’s arguments and responses. I am sure that we will come back to this on Report, but I would like to make some very brief comments. I do not want to bandy figures too much; I think we can probably deal with that between now and Report stage.

The Minister mentioned the Section 67 scheme in the 2016 Act. The Minister said it was a one-off scheme, but it was only one-off because the Government arbitrarily closed it. There was no number given in the amendment; the Government quite arbitrarily said that there were no more local authority places. I think the Government stopped that one.

The Minister mentioned the children who came and how generous we have been but, according to the figures she quoted, the majority of these children came illegally. They crossed the channel, either in dinghies or in the back of lorries. I believe that, had they had legal paths to safety, they would not have come that way. The figures would have been the same, but some of them would have had a safe and legal crossing, instead of the terrible dangers of crossing the channel.

I will certainly get back to the Minister with indications of those local authorities—it was some time ago that we did the check—that I know are able and willing to take child refugees, so we can take the argument to that point.

The Minister mentioned the global UK resettlement scheme. Fine, I am all in support of that, except of course that this will not take a single child from Europe, as I understand it; it will be ones from the region. I welcome that they will be taken from the region, but I do not welcome the fact that the scheme will not cover any from Europe, which is why we need this particular amendment.

With regards to push and pull factors, I remember talking to a Syrian boy who fled from Damascus or Aleppo. He told me very vividly how he had seen his father blown up by a bomb in front of him. That is an experience which will mark a child for life, and that is a real push factor if ever there was one. A lot of the children I have spoken to have had the most terrible journeys in order to try and find safety. They are coming because they want to find safety somewhere in the world. The majority of them have gone to Germany, Sweden and other EU countries. Some have come here, and I hope more will come.

As I say, I believe we can return to this on Report. I repeat my gratitude to all noble Lords who have contributed to this debate.

Channel Crossings in Small Boats

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Thursday 3rd September 2020

(3 years, 8 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My noble friend outlines some of the complexities of this. It is not in our purview to go and destroy boats that are not on our soil. They quite often come from France, as my noble friend said. On not landing in the UK, it is an internationally accepted arrangement that the first job of any maritime force, whether Border Force or whoever it is, to save lives at sea. That is a really important thing here. I will repeat what I said in the first instance: on taking someone somewhere else, when people are taken safely on to our soil we are obliged to hear and deal with their asylum claim. This is a problem for every state in the EU: we need to work, together with our partners, to deal with some of the problems of upstream criminality. The reason why people get on to these boats and take perilous journeys is that criminality, unfortunately, is at the heart of it.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I think we would all agree that these are desperate people, many of them children. They are often the victims of war and persecution. The best way forward is to reach some sort of agreement with the French authorities. I suggest that the Minister should say to the French, among other things, that we will take all the children in northern France who have family members in this country or other close links with this country. We should say that we will do this quickly and expeditiously, in return for which we expect the French to redouble their efforts to catch the traffickers.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford (Con)
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My Lords, that sounds really lovely in theory. In practice, it would just create another incentive for people traffickers to get people to France. Do not forget that France is a free, democratic and safe country. On arrangements with France, the noble Lord will know, because I spoke to him about it, that we have laid a legal text that talks about our obligations in taking asylum seekers who require our protection and, in turn, returning people who do not. Unfortunately, that has not progressed, but we continue to try to make progress with it because, as I have said all along, through the process of Brexit we want to help people who need our protection.

Immigration: Detainee Support

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 7th July 2020

(3 years, 10 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I agree with the noble Baroness that human trafficking is an issue that often comes to light in the detention estate. As I said, a risk-based assessment is done when people leave detention, and people have access to support should they need it, if they are victims of trafficking. However, she is right: this is a real concern at the moment.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, the Minister said in reply to an earlier question that detention was for the purposes of removal. Could she then explain why in 2018—the latest year for which I have figures—56% of those detained were released back into the community? Is that not a sign that we are using detention far too much when we do not need to?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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People are released from detention for a number of reasons, including appeals that succeed because late information is provided. However, the noble Lord makes a valid point that we should look back on this period of the pandemic to see whether some of the things that we are doing now could be used in future to manage people in the community.

Reading Terrorist Attack

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 23rd June 2020

(3 years, 11 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, the noble Lord points to a crucial issue: those datasets for law enforcement purposes and national security need to be in place after our departure from the European Union. We have EU and other structures to use, depending on whether a negotiated outcome is agreed or not.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab) [V]
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My Lords, I agree that we saw the police at their very best in Reading a few days ago. I welcome the extra £90 million a year that will be allocated to counterterrorism policing. If I were a member of the intelligence and security services, I would want to find out from MI5 how many of the 30,000 people on a theoretical list it would like to keep under closer scrutiny. In other words, no matter what its resources are, is it in difficulty and does it not have enough resources to watch all those people? Will the Minister also comment on an added difficulty facing the security services? We have seen a resurgence of the threat from far-right terrorists as well, so the resources of the security services must be divided across a very wide spectrum indeed.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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The noble Lord is right to point out that we need the resources to tackle people who are either a danger to others or assessed as possibly being a danger to others. I pointed out earlier, in answer to the question on police officers and CT policing, that both have had a big uplift in their resources, but it is about the deployment of those resources and the intelligence that adds to the mix in ensuring that we can tackle some of the people who pose a real danger to our communities.

Child Refugees: Turkey and Greece

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Wednesday 11th March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
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To ask Her Majesty’s Government what plans they have to offer places to child refugees currently (1) on the border between Turkey and Greece, or (2) on Greek islands.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)
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My Lords, the Government currently transfer eligible children located in Greece under the Dublin regulation, and will continue to do so during the transition period. The UK will also continue to transfer unaccompanied children in Greece through Section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 until we fulfil this important obligation.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, who will be as aware as anybody of the terrible conditions affecting refugees, especially child refugees, on the Greek islands. She will also be aware of the request made not long ago by the Greek Government that other countries should help in resettling some of the child refugees who have reached the Greek islands. Can the Minister confirm that the global resettlement scheme, which was referred to yesterday by Ministers in both Houses, will apply to children who are currently in Greece and on the Greek islands, and not just to those elsewhere in the region?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I understand what the noble Lord is saying, in the sense that those children are now in a European country as opposed to coming from whatever region in the world they come from. We will absolutely stand by our commitment to helping children from around the world who need our help. We are in dialogue with Greece and we will work closely with UNHCR, which both identifies and refers children who may need our resettlement.

European Arrest Warrant, Europol and Eurojust

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Monday 2nd March 2020

(4 years, 2 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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As the noble Baroness will know, and as I have said on several occasions, we have engaged with the devolved authorities on all things, particularly in the area of law enforcement.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, is it not the case that the European arrest warrant has one enormous advantage among many in that countries that do not normally extradite their people, do so under the EAW? What assurance have we that, in future, this will hold good? Many signals have come from European countries saying that they will not do so in the future. Does that not make us as a country weaker and more vulnerable to criminality?

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I think it would mean that those states will try in their own countries—I have talked about the enhanced safeguards—but I do not think that will make this country less safe.

Immigration: Points-based System

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Tuesday 25th February 2020

(4 years, 3 months ago)

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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, we have made it clear that it is incumbent on UK businesses to start to upskill the people who work for them and not to rely on cheap labour from the EU and beyond, as they did before. That is the challenge to businesses, but I take my noble friend’s point—I can hear the tutting—and obviously we will keep the system under review. It is a brand new system and the MAC will, of course, be advising us on it as we proceed.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, does the Minister accept that the words that she has uttered today will have given little comfort to the many employers in this country who are worried about having enough people to work and do the necessary jobs that they have? The Statement referred to talented employees and she talked about people with A-levels and so on. Is there not a danger that we will simply be denuding key industries of the people we need? Is there not a terrible danger to the health service, particularly in social care? I am not aware of anything in what the Minister suggested that would make us feel that social care is going to work. It is on the point of collapsing anyway, and it will collapse even further if there are no people willing to do the job. Of course, the answer is to have a whacking big pay increase for people in social care, but that is not for this afternoon: it is for another occasion. I implore the Minister to understand that employers are desperately worried about what is going to happen, and they have not had any assurances in what she said.

Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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My Lords, in the coming months, we will engage widely with different sectors and, I hope, allay their fears. It is important to say, though, that employers should be moving away from reliance on the UK’s immigration system as an alternative to investment in staff retention, particularly in areas such as technology and innovation. There are two things that run alongside each other: immigration must be considered alongside investment in, and development of, the UK’s domestic workforce. That includes—and this relates to the noble Lord’s point—valuing care staff and paying them a decent wage.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued) & Report stage & Report: 2nd sitting (Hansard - continued): House of Lords
Tuesday 21st January 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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That is correct. If the noble Lord has finished his intervention, I ask noble Lords to reconsider their intention to divide the House because I hope that I have provided the clarity necessary.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs (Lab)
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My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for at least having stated, again, the Government’s position, but I still do not understand it. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, explains why it was difficult to follow. For all the time we spent on it, it is not clear to me or many noble Lords, including on the Government Benches, why the Government are doing what they are doing. Part of the Minister’s speech could have ended up with her saying yes, and that she supported the amendment—part of it led to that conclusion. Somehow, she changed course and said no. She talked about an unnecessary statutory obligation. By that, I believe she means the provision in the 2018 Act—an obligation accepted by the Government in the Commons after we passed it in this House. I do not know why it was okay then but unnecessary today; that has not been explained.

Above all, it seems to me that there is a very clear proposition on family reunion: unaccompanied child refugees should be able to join family members here. All we ask is for the Government to take that and negotiate on that basis with the EU. We cannot predict the outcome; it could not be more modest. All we are saying is, “Please do it”. But the converse, by the Government saying, “We are not going to do it”, sends a very difficult signal. Some people have called the Government mean and nasty. If the Government want to disprove that accusation, surely they should accept this amendment. It is very simple: we do that and then we are in line with what we decided in 2016.

European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill

Debate between Lord Dubs and Baroness Williams of Trafford
Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued) & Committee stage & Committee: 2nd sitting (Hansard continued): House of Lords
Wednesday 15th January 2020

(4 years, 4 months ago)

Lords Chamber
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Baroness Williams of Trafford Portrait Baroness Williams of Trafford
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I am not sure that I can give that undertaking but I will certainly request it. I will also come on to the noble Baroness’s question about the words “best interests” appearing in subsection (1)(a) but not in (1)(b). The phrase “equivalent circumstances” in subsection (1)(b) duplicates that. She might like to take a look at that and, if she is not content, I will be happy to go through it with her.

The noble Baroness, Lady Sheehan, talked about the gap, and my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay pointed out that Dublin III will exist until the end of the implementation period. My noble friend Lord Elton asked for the definition of “relative”. I think that there has been another misunderstanding—that all the relatives were listed in Section 17 but do not appear in Clause 37, although they do. A relative in relation to an unaccompanied child means

“a spouse or civil partner of the child or any person with whom the child has a durable relationship that is similar to marriage or civil partnership, or … a parent, grandparent, uncle, aunt, brother or sister of the child”.

That is quite an extensive list and I hope that that helps my noble friend.

I shall finish on the words of my noble and learned friend Lord Mackay. Section 17 in and of itself gives no rights to children. Through Clause 37 we are attempting to lay out our intentions. We have done so in the manifesto and have already started talks with the EU on this subject. Our commitment to children has not changed.

Lord Dubs Portrait Lord Dubs
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My Lords, perhaps I may say a few brief words. I am grateful to all noble Lords who have taken part in this debate, which has been quite illuminating in the main, but perhaps I may comment on two or three specific points.

First, I want to refer to what the noble Baroness, Lady Nicholson, said. I very much respect her important work with Save the Children and other organisations overseas, but I think she is quite wrong on the trafficking argument. Where there are no legal routes to safety, people will allow themselves to be trafficked and will come illegally. Surely, by having legal routes to safety, we are making the position of traffickers much more difficult and making it much easier for people to achieve safety. Therefore, I am sorry but I do not agree with her on that.

Perhaps I may also return to the point that the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, made. I do not have the wording of Section 17 of the 2018 Act in front of me but it has been referred to. It says that the Government should seek to negotiate on a particular basis. We have already talked about Clause 33 of this Bill, which would add something to the 2018 Act. It says:

“A Minister of the Crown may not agree in the Joint Committee to an extension of the implementation period.”


That is telling a Minister of the Crown exactly what he or she may or may not do, which is totally at variance with the argument that we have heard on Clause 37. I do not understand. On the one hand, the Government are saying in their own Bill that Ministers may be told what to do; on the other hand, they are using that as an argument against my amendment.

I am sorry to quote the Minister’s letter again but one paragraph seems to be at variance with other points and I wonder whether the Minister would like to withdraw it. It includes the words,

“so that the traditional division between Government and Parliament be restored”—

that is, by removing Section 17—

“and the negotiations ahead can be carried out with full flexibility and in an appropriate manner across all policy areas.”

That goes a lot wider than what we have been talking about tonight. It seems to me that this is meant to talk about some relationship between government and Parliament, which in any case Clause 33 disproves, and it refers to

“an appropriate manner across all policy areas.”

I am sorry but I cannot interpret that in the way the Minister suggests.

I want briefly to make two or three other comments. I agree that the manifesto talks about a commitment to refugees but it says nothing about child refugees. It says nothing at all that would enable the Government to invoke the Salisbury convention against my wish to remove Clause 37 from the Bill. If the Minister would like to meet me to talk about local authorities, I would be very happy to do so. I know that local authorities are very helpful. I know of Northern Ireland organisations that will want to help now that the Government there has been restored. The debate is going on in the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man, although no decision has been made there yet. It seems to me, however, that there are more local authorities. In addition, Safe Passage, one of the NGOs with which I am working closely, has written to all local authorities and we have got quite a lot of positive answers. This shows that local authorities are willing to take more.

When we debated Section 67 in 2016 and the amendment that I put forward about child refugees with no people here, there was a fierce battle. I was asked time and again to withdraw my amendment. The Home Secretary asked me to withdraw my amendment. It got through, despite the Government’s wishes, and it got through the other House, despite their wishes. Then we had the amendment to the 2018 Act that we are talking about now. Again, there was a big vote fairly late in the evening; the Government did not want it. In opposition, we had to argue for amendments on behalf of refugees and now the Government seem to be taking credit for that. I am sorry, but that is not the way the world has been. I appreciate that the Minister is totally sympathetic to refugees, but that is not how the Government have behaved. They have resisted all these amendments and all we have in opposition is the chance to move amendments in the hope of making our point. That is why we have had these arguments.

I shall not press this issue tonight, but particularly in the light of the discussion, I might wish to return to it on Report.