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I rise to urge Members across the Chamber to reject giving the Immigration Bill a Second Reading. The reason for that is simple: this is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation proposed by this Government to date. If this Bill is allowed to pass, it will close off support currently available to failed asylum seekers. If this legislation is brought into law, it will place additional costs on local authorities at a time when they are already spending billions of pounds on children in need of care. It will push those suffering the brunt of the cuts dictated by this Government’s failing austerity agenda further into poverty. The proposal will undoubtedly increase poverty among asylum seekers and their children, which to any reasonable person is already at an unacceptably high level.
According to The Children’s Society, support for children seeking protection in the UK can be as little as half that received through the mainstream benefits system. In some cases, children and families would need nearly three times more than they currently receive in order to be pulled out of poverty. Many families are not even able to pay for the basics, including clothing, powdered milk and nappies for their babies. Rates of support for asylum seekers mean that children are living in severe poverty on less than 40% of average incomes. This is an abhorrent situation to place any family in. Are the Government really trying to make the situation worse?
The proposals put forward by the Secretary of State will compel more asylum seekers into unregulated employment to survive, fuelling exploitation and the undercutting of their rights. The Migrants Rights Network said that these changes will
“encourage discrimination against minorities whether British Citizens or migrants…This can only increase social ills, wage theft and abuse, and divide communities.”
The SNP believes that asylum seekers should be allowed to work so that they are able to provide for themselves and their families adequately. We believe they should be able to work so that they are able to make a contribution to the country they call home.
Only last week I and Mims Davies attended a Women and Equalities Committee visit to Oldham, Manchester and Birmingham. There we listened to the experiences of a mother whose daughter, now 21, has spent 13 years in the asylum system. Her daughter, now a masters graduate, is unable to gain employment; her mother has for over 20 years been unable to support her family.
This is the reality for many families across this country. These proposals will create a criminal offence which could lead to a 12-month prison sentence with an unlimited fine for anyone found working without the right papers. That is unacceptable. It is grossly disproportionate to harm any migrants in vulnerable situations who may be considered to have been at the mercy of a system that does not work for them. The threat of loss of earnings and incarceration is likely to make them even more unwilling to come forward. In effect, the proposed legislation means greater security for exploitative bosses, leaving migrants feeling powerless to raise a complaint.
I urge the House to vote against the Bill.