Rwanda: Asylum and Immigration

Justice – in the House of Commons at on 14 May 2024.

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Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

If he will issue guidance to lawyers on the potential implications for the criminal justice process of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

The hon. Lady asks about the implications for the criminal justice system of the Safety of Rwanda (Asylum and Immigration) Act 2024. To be clear, that Act relates to immigration and potentially administrative law. It does not substantially impact on the criminal law, and accordingly no specific guidance is required.

Photo of Alison Thewliss Alison Thewliss Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs)

I thank the Secretary of State for that response. May I praise the quick response from solicitors and the community in Glasgow to Rwanda removals, very much in the spirit of the Glasgow Girls and the Glasgow Grannies and Kenmure Street three years ago? Is there a deliberate policy to remove people from Scotland to England to prevent them from accessing legal aid, as they would be able and fully entitled to do in Scotland? What guidance has been issued to lawyers in this respect? Lastly, what right do MPs have to intervene in cases of removal, because I have been told that MPs have been asked for wet signatures from people who have been taken to immigration removal centres in England.

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

There are several questions in there but the answer to the first question is no, that is not correct. The point about legal advice is very important: people should get legal advice so that they can make their points. That is why we are investing heavily: when the Illegal Migration Act 2023 comes into force there will be a 15% uplift; we have invested £1.5 million to reaccredit senior caseworkers; and we are also paying for travel time. We recognise that; the legislation is necessarily robust and we are also ensuring people get the legal advice they need.

Photo of Chris Stephens Chris Stephens Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Immigration)

I listened with great interest to that answer. My hon. Friends the Members for Glasgow Central (Alison Thewliss) and for Glasgow North East (Anne McLaughlin) and I have constituents who have been removed from Scotland to England and threatened with deportation. Can the Secretary of State answer this question: why are MPs being denied access to their constituents? It seems outrageous. Does he not agree that this is unacceptable and that lawyers and their elected representatives should not be impeded by arbitrary barriers when accessing constituents who are threatened with deportation?

Photo of Alex Chalk Alex Chalk The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice

I would be more than happy to discuss that point with the hon. Gentleman. Of course MPs should have access in appropriate circumstances, but the critical point is for individuals to get legal support—I say that with no discourtesy to him as a constituency MP. That legal support is important. As I have said, when the IMA comes into effect we will increase funding by 15%, pay for travel time and ensure the reaccreditation of senior caseworkers. That is what individuals need: support through legal advice, and that is what we are providing.