Only a few days to go: We’re raising £25,000 to keep TheyWorkForYou running and make sure people across the UK can hold their elected representatives to account.Donate to our crowdfunder
I am grateful to the Minister for his comments.
While we are on that topic, may I suggest that there is further work to be done in the other place? Schedule 11 relates to maritime enforcement. Reference was made on Second Reading to the failure of the schedule to mention the Belfast Harbour Police. I think the Minister took on board the fact that it is a properly constituted, legitimate authority that is mandated to operate within the port. It is a private police force, but it looks after the security of the port. I believe that an additional provision relating to the Belfast Harbour Police could be inserted into the Bill in the other place, should the opportunity to do so arise and should such a provision have the Government’s backing. If we are intent on pursuing the thrust of the Bill, and the protections that the maritime provisions will provide, it is important that we give that matter consideration in the other place.
I want to raise a couple of issues that have arisen in recent years that relate to immigration in general and to the UK Border Force in particular. They relate to the new clauses and amendments, so I shall not be straying too far from the subject. Border Force runs a skeleton operation in Northern Ireland. In fact, one could easily be forgiven for thinking that its effective operational role related only to mainland GB.
There are ferry links between my constituency of Belfast East and that of my right hon. Friend Mr Dodds, and the constituency that Stranraer rests in. I am struggling to remember which one that is, but I think it is Dumfries and Galloway. Stena goes there. UK Border Force will be waiting in Scotland for anyone travelling from our part of the UK to that part of the mainland. Should anyone wish to board the vessel in Belfast in a vehicle, they will not be searched or questioned at all. Foot passengers will go through more invasive security procedures, but the immigration screening does not take place in Belfast. That omission should be looked at.
I want to mention the case of Myriama Yousef. She is a wonderful character who sought asylum in Belfast and received great assistance from the Belfast Central Mission, the Methodist church in the city. I have to be careful about the terminology I use to describe her case. She is either a failed asylum seeker or a refused asylum seeker. She is someone who sought asylum in the United Kingdom and was turned down. She had to spend time in the Larne House detention centre, which is located within the Larne PSNI station. Anyone with any knowledge of security arrangements in Northern Ireland will know that the police stations there are not the most welcoming or inviting places. That is a consequence of our history. Anyone who is detained for immigration reasons in Northern Ireland is held there, in what looks like a military compound, with sangars, high fences, security lighting and security cameras. It is not an acceptable place. Myriama Yousef was deported to the country from which she had entered the UK. She was removed to Dublin, at which point she immediately got on the Ulsterbus, paid her £8.50 fare and was back in Belfast within two hours. Following her subsequent detection, she was brought to Yarl’s Wood.
Another case relates to a point made by Yvette Cooper. She talked about a 19-year-old in Beirut who was separated from her family, but this case relates to Johnny Sandhu, an Indian-born solicitor from Northern Ireland who operated in Limavady. He was detected in the serious crime suite inciting a member of the Ulster Volunteer Force to commit murder so that they could evade prosecution. He was subsequently jailed for 10 years and, on his release, he was deported back to India. His family, who relied on him, were left in Northern Ireland. His children, who were going through the education system and doing their GCSEs at the time, were not in a position to up sticks and leave, but their father was never in a position to come back to the United Kingdom.
I would be grateful if the Minister considered cases such as that and the one raised by the right hon. Member for Normanton, Pontefract and Castleford to see how we can be a little more compassionate and recognise that, when someone’s 18th birthday strikes, they do not cut all ties or lose all connection with their family. We should consider how we, as a country, can best ensure that the family unit is held together.