All 1 Lindsay Hoyle contributions to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Act 2020

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Wed 4th Nov 2020
Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill
Commons Chamber

Consideration of Lords amendmentsPing Pong & Consideration of Lords amendments

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

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Department: Home Office

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

Lindsay Hoyle Excerpts
Kevin Foster Portrait The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for the Home Department (Kevin Foster)
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I beg to move, That this House disagrees with Lords amendment 4B.

Lindsay Hoyle Portrait Mr Speaker
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With this it will be convenient to consider Government amendments (a) to (c) in lieu of Lords amendment 4B.

Kevin Foster Portrait Kevin Foster
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Lords amendment 4B relates to family reunion and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. I am sure that hon. Members will have in mind the tragic events in the channel last week. Let me reiterate very firmly that the Government are determined to end these dangerous, illegal and unnecessary crossings to ensure that lives are not lost and that ruthless criminal gangs no longer profit from this criminal activity.

As my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary recently announced at the Conservative party conference, we intend to reform our broken asylum system to make it firm but fair. We intend to bring forward legislation next year to deliver this, allowing for a wider debate on the subject. Our reformed system will be fair and compassionate towards those who need our help by welcoming people through safe and legal routes. It will also be firm and stand up for the law-abiding majority by stopping the abuse of the system by those who raise no founded claims through protected routes but do so purely to frustrate the implementation of our immigration law and procedure.

Let me reassure hon. Members that the Government remain committed to the principle of family unity and to supporting vulnerable children. We have a very proud record of providing safety to those who need it through our asylum system and world-leading resettlement schemes, and we are determined that that continues. We have granted protection and other leave to more than 44,000 children seeking protection since 2010. The UK continues to be one of the highest recipients of asylum claims from unaccompanied children across Europe, receiving more claims than any EU member state in 2019, and 20% of all claims made in the EU are in the UK.

The Government understand the importance of this issue, and it is right that we continue to debate it. Lords amendment 4B is well-intentioned in seeking to ensure that adequate protection is in place for vulnerable asylum-seeking children. However, we have made a credible and serious offer to the EU on new arrangements for the family reunion of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. It remains our goal to negotiate such an agreement. As my noble Friend Baroness Williams announced in the other place on 21 October, in the event of no negotiated outcome, we will pursue bilateral negotiations on post-transition migration issues with mutual interest countries, including on family reunion for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Government policy has not changed on this matter.

However, it is worth noting that the UK already provides safe and legal routes for people to join family members in the UK through our existing immigration rules, all of which are unaffected by our exit from the EU, as they apply globally. In the year ending June 2020, the Government issued 6,320 refugee family reunion visas and have issued more than 29,000 in the last five years. This shows that our existing refugee family reunion routes are working well, and these routes will continue to apply, including to people in the EU, after the transition period. Our resettlement schemes were the largest in Europe over the last five years, directly resettling more than 25,000 people from regions of conflict and instability, half of whom were children. During the debate in the other place on 21 October, the Government committed, as part of this vital work, to conduct a review of safe and legal routes into the UK, including those for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in EU member states to reunite with family members here in the United Kingdom.

The substantive amendment that the Government have tabled in lieu, amendment (a), makes important statutory commitments, demonstrating the Government’s assurances to review legal routes to the UK for people seeking protection in EU member states or seeking to come to the UK to make a protection claim, including for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to join their family members here in the United Kingdom; to publicly consult on legal routes for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the EU seeking to join family members in the UK; to lay a statement before Parliament providing further details of that review and public consultation within three months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent; and to prepare a report on the outcome of the review, publish it and lay it before Parliament. Amendments (b) and (c) concern commencement of the commitment in amendment (a) to lay a statement before Parliament and specify that it will come into force within three months of Royal Assent.

I trust Members will agree that amendment (a) in lieu is substantial and clearly demonstrates how seriously this Government take the issue of family unity for vulnerable children. It is important that we consider these routes, to discourage vulnerable children from making the dangerous and illegal journeys that can result in the kind of tragedy we saw last week. Due to the scope of the Bill, amendment (a) refers only to legal routes for those who have made an application for international protection in an EU member state or are seeking to come to the UK from a member state to claim protection here. However, I can confirm that the review we conduct will be concerned with legal routes from all countries, not just EU member states. That is in line with our new global approach to the future immigration system and ensures that there is no advantage to making a dangerous journey across the Mediterranean, often organised by criminal trafficking gangs. Those granted permission under these routes can instead travel safely—via scheduled air services, for example—to the United Kingdom.