Immigration Rules: Supported Accommodation

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 12:45 pm on 16th December 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes Chair, Women and Equalities Committee, Chair, Women and Equalities Committee 12:45 pm, 16th December 2020

Coming into force on 1 January, the Home Office’s proposed changes to the asylum system have far-reaching implications. Intended to act as a deterrent to people traffickers, which of course is laudable, they instead create a separate tier of asylum seekers, who will not have their claims considered and who the Minister will seek to return, albeit with no mechanism yet to do so. They will also be housed in camps, such as the one proposed in Test Valley, with no mains electricity or mains water. How does the Minister intend to issue written guidance as to how these changes will be processed? He has just 10 working days before they come into force. Will the permitted development powers that the Minister intends to use to create several of these camps be extended by statutory instrument, like these rules, avoiding parliamentary scrutiny? Does he think the changes might in fact see an increase to the asylum application backlog? Does he have a strategic plan or does he hope that housing people on sites where he admits he will not provide healthcare will just act as a deterrent? He acknowledges that, even without covid, only a few thousand failed asylum seekers are returned each year, and in 10 working days he loses Dublin. I know he is working with the French to secure a replacement, but what about Greece, Spain and Italy, and will those agreements be in place by 1 January?

The Home Office is already in court over its inhuman treatment of asylum seekers housed in barracks and it has settled some claims, moving people into more appropriate accommodation. Is the Minister concerned he has laid these rules before the rest of those cases are heard, and just a matter of days after the Equality and Human Rights Commission stated that the Home Office had

“a culture where equality was not seen as important”?

Last year, Wendy Williams identified that the Home Office needed to examine the development of policies to make sure that the person was put at the heart of its services. How do these rules fit with that?

The Minister has talked of legal routes, but he has committed to resettle only 232 people—the final step in delivering the pledge to resettle 20,000 Syrians, of which we were all proud. When will he finally launch the programme to resettle 5,000 refugees this year, which was announced in 2019?

The Minister plans to put people in camps with no mains water at a time when we know hygiene is critical. If it were not for you having granted this urgent question today, Mr Speaker, he would not even have come to the House to explain himself.