Asylum and Immigration (Treatment of Claimants, etc.) Bill
Dr Jenny Tonge (Richmond Park, Liberal Democrat)
My bedtime reading over recent weeks has been "Every Child Matters", which is a good White Paper that the Government published several months ago. But it would appear from the Bill's provisions and from what we have heard in the debate that every child matters except for the children of asylum seekers.
Mr. Dawson organised a good meeting in the House last week during which we heard about conditions in detention centres. That was a bit of an eye opener for me, and given that detention centres are mentioned in the Bill, I thought I would use this opportunity to ask the Minister to address the problems. It is unclear why people—especially families with children—go into the detention centres and at what stage of the process that happens. The original intention for people to go into such centres as a result of a court order seems to be have been thrown out of the window, because that no longer happens. No one knows who decides the length of time for which people stay in the centres.
Inspections carried out by Her Majesty's inspectorate of prisons show that people in the centres often have no privacy and that their rooms have no locks. They are not allowed access outside and their children receive no proper health care or education. Those facts are not rumour or anecdote: they come from an official inspection. At last week's meeting, it was questioned whether the Government are upholding the human rights of families and children who are in detention centres. The situation is serious and scandalous, so I hope that the Minister will address it in her response and tell us what the Government will do about it.
A lot has been said about clause 7. I merely repeat that families with children are usually the most genuine asylum seekers. Who would haul their children halfway across the world to a country where they know few people and do not speak the language, when they have no money and no means of finding work, if they were not in genuine fear of persecution? I cannot believe that people would do that.
On the other side of the coin, the Government say that people would rather leave this country and take their children with them than stay without benefits. If I were in their position, knowing the treatment I would get when I returned to my country of origin, I would probably prefer to leave my children in care and take the risk. At least I would know that they would be safe. Clause 7 is appalling.