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I could not agree more with my hon. Friend. In Committee we tabled an amendment to try to ensure that support was pegged at 60% of income support, which would have increased support by just over £1 a day. It is not a massive amount of money—I am not sure that many Members of the House could survive on just over £6 a day.
Evidence suggests that removing support from refused asylum seekers does nothing to make it easier or quicker to deport families from the UK. The 2005 Home Office pilot study attempted to remove support from refused asylum seekers—Keir Starmer touched on that point. It concluded that ending support for asylum seeking-families had no influence in encouraging people to be removed from the UK. That view was echoed by Peter Grady from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, who stated that
“it was noted in our evidence that we had concerns whether removing support would meet the objective of encouraging return, or disincentivising staying, particularly for families of refused asylum seekers.”––[Official Report, Immigration Public Bill Committee,
The Government’s new approach to removing support allegedly differs in three respects from the 2005 pilot study, but aside from moving the onus to prove that a genuine obstacle to their departure exists from the Home Office to the claimant, and hollow promises to work more closely with refused asylum seekers, nothing has really changed. The Government are not learning the lessons from previous pilot studies, and they are bound to repeat the mistakes of the past, with families being forced into a vulnerable and difficult situation as a result.
Amendment 29 seeks to ensure that a right of appeal—surely a basic human right—continues to exist for those whose claim for asylum has been unsuccessful, or whose support has been discontinued. Surely the measure of any society is how we treat the most vulnerable, and it is right that we retain some support for those youngsters who are leaving institutional care. I stated in Committee that other Departments are calling for more support as part of a leaving care strategy. The Minister for Children and Families described that group as “highly vulnerable”, and as recently as July he stated that it was time to do more for vulnerable youngsters leaving care. It seems that our commitment to providing more care to that vulnerable group depends on where they were born. Amendments 42 to 45 would ensure that the Bill does not fly in the face of that leaving care strategy, and I hope that the Minister will stand by his rhetoric and lobby his ministerial colleague to accept them.
When introducing this Bill, the Home Secretary stated as fact that our public services were being abused by illegal migrants. I accept that some people might be living here illegally, and the authorities should deal with them appropriately. However, the people I have spoken about today are not “abusing” the system. I have spoken about children of asylum-seeking families and youngsters leaving care. Those groups are not abusing the system; those are people who the system is designed to protect. They are vulnerable youngsters who are just looking for the best start in life, and I call on the Government to drop their harmful proposals.