I am proud to support the Government’s efforts to reform our immigration system to retain its compassionate approach but combining it with increased fairness, firmness and efficiency.
During the Nationality and Borders Act's passage through Parliament, I am aware that an Amendment was tabled by Lord Dubs which related to safe routes for those seeking to claim asylum in the UK, including unaccompanied children, to travel from countries in Europe to join family in the UK. While well intentioned, these measures would have actually proved detrimental to the interests of vulnerable children and encouraged young people to make dangerous journeys. I therefore welcome that it was not included in the final legislation.
For example, regarding the best interests of vulnerable children, the Amendment failed to consider the individual needs of children which would raise significant issues. It created entitlements to come to the UK to claim asylum if the individual had the specified UK relatives but did not consider whether this would be in the unaccompanied child’s best interests. Neither did it consider whether the UK-based relative could actually take care of the child, nor did it involve any consideration of whether the child would be better placed with a relative, potentially an even closer relative, in another European state.
Furthermore, I cannot ignore the fact that this new Amendment would have encouraged asylum seekers, including vulnerable unaccompanied children, to make dangerous journeys to Europe (facilitated by smugglers and traffickers) to benefit from its provisions. By the same token, it would have discouraged asylum seekers, when in Europe who wish to travel to the UK, to interact with the care and support mechanisms or the asylum systems of those safe European countries which should provide them with the safety and protection they are entitled to under the same international legal obligations that the UK abides by.
It is vital to keep in mind that European member states are safe countries with international obligations towards protecting asylum seekers and children, as we have here in the UK, affording all asylum seekers in Europe an opportunity to access the rights to which they are entitled. It is also the case that children, including unaccompanied children, can already apply under existing immigration routes relating to family reunion from any part of the world.
I hope with this response I have been able to outline why I felt unable to support Lord Dubs’ Amendment to the Nationality and Borders Act.