A lot has happened since the last vote on April 25th, showing it IS worth lobbying MPs and fighting for our values of justice and compassion. However more work to come.
The situation is complicated, some progress has been made, but not nearly enough, and even if all the amendments are agreed, we end up with a Bill that includes implementation of “deport first, appeal later”, rules for a wide range of cases, restrictions on right to rent based on individuals’ immigration status, increased surveillance over access to essential services, new types of criminalisation including working without a permit or driving while staying in the UK irregularly.
More detail is below, and detail as to what happened in the House of Lords is in our web article here, but if you read no further please lobby your MP to
VOTE FOR Amendment 84 (Lord Ramsbotham’s), for greater scrutiny of detention and 28 day judicial oversight. (compared to the Government’s 4 month judicial review oversight)
VOTE FOR Amendment 85 (Baroness Lister’s improving the72 hour time limit on the detention of pregnant women amendment (Note, the conversation is no longer about absolute ban on detention of pregnant women.)
These are of vital importance in the light of other aspects of the Immigration Bill which is likely to increase detention.
KEEP PRESSING FOR adequate funding for local authorities for supporting lone refugee children arriving in their areas, and the necessary recruitment and training of foster parents.
If an MP you lobbied responded positively, please do thank them.
THE UK ACCEPTING REFUGEE CHILDREN ALREADY IN EUROPE.
After the narrow defeat in the House of Commons last time the Government has now accepted the “Dubs amendment” from the House of Lords. The Government have now said that they will offer sanctuary for an unspecified number of children. They will consult with local authorities about accepting under-16s who registered as unaccompanied refugees in Europe before 20 March, when the Turkey/EU deal came into being, and say they hope the first children will arrive in the UK by the end of the year.
Tim Farron says “Since I first raised the issue with him last October, the Prime Minister has done everything he can to ignore the plight of unaccompanied child refugees in Europe, so I strongly welcome the announcement that we will finally be helping these vulnerable kids.
“An estimated 90,000 unaccompanied children arrived in Europe last year, so 3,000 is the very least Britain can do, and I will do everything I can to ensure that the government meets this target. What started as a call supported only by the Lib Dems has developed into a truly cross party campaign, and those activists up and down the country who have championed this should be proud of their efforts today. The detail remains to be seen. Tens or hundreds simply won’t be good enough and would be a betrayal of the British public and Parliament. This is a victory, but it’s not the end of the story. The Government must also ensure that local authorities are properly funded so that they can help these traumatised children rebuild their lives and achieve their full potential”.
During Prime Minister’s Questions, the Prime Minister confirmed the Government’s promise that it will act more quickly to help separated children who have relatives in Britain to realise their existing legal right to join their loved ones: a welcome step forward. See also what the Refugee Council says.
On May 5th the Government published its compromise amendment, reducing the time for an automatic bail hearing from 6 to 4 months, in response to the Lord Ramsbotham amendment asking for automatic judicial oversight of detention after 28 days.
As Detention Forum says “In essence, the Government is feeling the pressure and wants a way-out by reducing the period before automatic bail hearings kicks in from six months to four months. While it is encouraging to see that the Government knows that it is under pressure – and this is thanks to peers and MPs who are trying to negotiate something behind the scenes, as well as sector colleagues who are busy briefing them – this is not good enough and still not a time limit that we are seeking. MPs must feel confident enough to say no to the Government amendment and that’s why we need to continue to speak up. This ‘compromise’ amendment does nothing to address the serious misgivings highlighted in our briefing paper, in particular, the key thrust of both the Parliamentary Inquiry into the Use of Immigration Detention and the Shaw Review that the UK detains far too many people far too long and that the UK must immediately stop the practice of using detention as a norm rather than as an exception”. Note this would not be the same as a time limit on detention, but could be an important first step. The link to their updated webpage is here which explains the latest situation.
As Right to Remain says “Immigration detention is the deprivation of someone’s liberty, and the current lack of judicial oversight over such a fundamental deprivation of rights is an outrage. The UK detains more people, for longer, than any other country in Europe. Rather than the presumption of liberty being upheld (as established in law), the default position of the Home Office has been to detain, detain, detain.”
DETENTION OF PREGNANT WOMEN
In response to the Lords’ demand that there be an absolute ban on the detention of pregnant women, the Government offered a compromise through its amendment, introducing a time limit of 72 hours for this category of individuals, extendable up to seven days. A similar 72 hour detention time limit rule is currently applicable to families with children who are facing return from the UK to their country of origin, via the mechanism of the Independent Family Returns Panel. When the Bill returns to the Commons, the discussion under the Lister Amendment is likely to focus on to what extent and how it is ensured that pregnant women will be detained only under very exceptional circumstances.