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New Clause 3 — Transfer of responsibility for relevant children

Part of Consumer Protection (Standards of Fire Resistance of Children’s Fancy Dress and Play Costumes Etc) – in the House of Commons at 5:45 pm on 1st December 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 5:45 pm, 1st December 2015

Again, we have touched on several important themes in the Bill that were debated and examined in detail in Committee. We have also had additional items in new clauses that were not addressed in Committee, including those tabled by Yvette Cooper. We understand the depth of feeling about the human suffering in Syria and the UK and we are obviously taking several steps to respond to that crisis. I recognise the contribution that she has made to highlight several issues and concerns relating to that. We do not believe, however—I will explain how this fits into what other European countries are doing—that widening the family reunion eligibility criteria is the appropriate response. We are focusing our efforts on humanitarian aid to help the majority of refugees who remain in the region, and working with international partners to find a solution to the conflict, as well as—of course—the issue of resettlement, including of 20,000 of the most vulnerable refugees over the course of this Parliament.

The right hon. Lady asked about Dublin, and it is important to underline that the UK has fully implemented the Dublin III regulation. Those in Calais are the responsibility of the French authorities, and anyone wishing to benefit from the family unity provision of the regulation must first lodge an asylum claim in France and provide details of their family in the UK. A request will then be made to the UK to accept responsibility for that claim based on the presence of close family members—as I think the right hon. Lady recognises. As part of our joint declaration with the French Government, we continue to work with the French authorities on the overall processing of asylum claims and ways in which we can continue to support their activities. Indeed, some of the numbers they are processing and seeing outside the camps are increasing.

It is also worth underlining that our family reunion policy is more generous than our international obligations require. As I hinted at, other EU countries impose additional restrictions in their lawful residence requirements. Countries such as Denmark, Sweden and Austria have recently announced they are amending their family reunion policies, while Germany has indicated it will review its policy.

The right hon. Lady asked me about compelling humanitarian cases, and indeed Gavin Robinson gave another example. Where a family reunion application fails under the immigration rules, such as in the case of an 18 or 19-year-old applying to join their refugee parents in the UK, the entry clearance officer must consider whether there are exceptional circumstances or compassionate reasons to justify granting a visa outside the rules. I gave another example in relation to elderly parents, so there is that obligation on entry clearance officers. The hon. Gentleman is no longer in his place, but he also highlighted the specific issue of the Belfast harbour police. I am happy to reflect on his point, while recognising that they were established under separate legislation: the Harbours, Docks and Piers Clauses Act 1847. Information-sharing powers exist, but I am happy to look at that in further detail.

My hon. Friend Mr Chope highlighted deportation. Our primary sanctions for immigration non-compliance are removal and civil penalties, which is why, in many respects, prosecution numbers are relatively low. Our focus is on removal, therefore, rather than prosecution, which can delay removal and is obviously costly. That is why we have taken this approach.