UK Borders Bill
Lord Bassam of Brighton (Government Whip (technically a Lord in Waiting, HM Household); Labour)
My Lords, I fully recognise that a great deal of passion and a little anger have been expressed during the debate. I also recognise that Members of your Lordships' House deal with this issue with great seriousness and that they have consulted and have been briefed widely by many aid and support organisations which help those who seek refuge in our country. If the system, in extension, were as has been described today and during the course of our deliberations on this part of the Bill, then I too would probably stand with those who make a case for the repeal of this part of our legislation. However, I do not believe that to be the case.
In my work in this area I have seen our officials and those who deal with these difficult issues approach their work with seriousness and sensitivity. That does not mean, as I said before, that absolutely everything is perfect in this policy area and that there are not hard issues and hard cases, because there certainly are, as the evidence suggests. But we have to maintain fair and effective procedures and we have to maintain a system that is robust. Yes, sometimes it produces difficult cases and hard choices.
I shall take some time and care to go through the issues because I believe that they deserve that treatment. I hope that noble Lords, while they may not agree with the Government's position on this, will at least understand that we give this very serious thought and careful consideration.
Amendments Nos. 14, 15 and 17 seek to extend asylum support to those who have been found to have no need for international protection and who should be taking steps to leave the United Kingdom. A very clear choice is set out in the amendments. Clause 17 as it stands seeks to ensure that an asylum seeker and his dependants will continue to be eligible for asylum support as an asylum seeker, or as the dependant of an asylum seeker, until the end of the immigration appeals process. Clause 17 provides that. Amendments Nos. 14 and 15 would maintain that support, potentially indefinitely, for those who have made an asylum claim, who have had that claim and any appeal rejected and who choose not to leave the United Kingdom.
As I said, I entirely accept that the reasoning behind these amendments is well intentioned. They seek to address a perceived gap in support for those whose asylum claims and appeals have been unsuccessful and who no longer qualify for asylum support. However—this is a very important point—we should not forget that there are already options available for failed asylum seekers who find themselves in this position. There is no reason for people refused asylum to be destitute. They can choose to return home, as it has been found that it is safe for them to return. Those making a voluntary return are eligible to receive the world-leading re-integration assistance that is provided by the International Organisation for Migration on behalf of the Home Office.