Many thanks for contacting me about unaccompanied children seeking asylum in the UK and Lord Dubs’ amendment to the Nationality and Borders Bill.
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 Bill passage through Parliament, I am aware that an amendment was tabled which relates 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 actually prove detrimental to the interests of vulnerable children and encourage young people to make dangerous journeys.
For example, regarding the best interests of vulnerable children, the amendment fails to consider the individual needs of children which raises significant issues. It creates entitlements to come to the UK to claim asylum if the individual has the specified UK relatives but does not consider whether this is in the unaccompanied child’s best interests. Neither does it consider whether the UK relative can actually take care of the child, nor does 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 clause would encourage 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 discourage 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 do here in the UK, affording all asylum seekers in Europe an opportunity to access the rights to which they are entitled. While we may not agree on every point, I hope with this response I have been able to outline why I am unable to support Lord Dubs’ amendment.
Thank you again for taking the time to contact me.
22 March 2022