To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of the extent to which the implementation of immigration policy has led to the separation of children from their parents.
My Lords, the family Immigration Rules and the policy on exceptional circumstances provide a clear basis for considering applications to remain in the UK. Individuals with no leave to remain are expected to leave voluntarily. We may enforce their removal if they do not. Our family separation guidance makes clear that staff must consider the best interests of any children, including their needs and caring arrangements, before taking enforcement action.
My Lords, how many children are presently separated from their parents or carers in the UK as a result of decisions taken by the immigration authorities to implement the policies of the Government?
I am afraid that I cannot provide the noble Lord with that exact detail, as it is not available. However, we have done dip sampling in the cases of 84 foreign national offenders from July 2017 to July 2018, and two family separations were detected. It is not clear whether they were temporary or whether we were seeking to remove one parent from the UK.
My Lords, the noble Baroness referred to the best interests of the child, no doubt reminding us of Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. What records are kept of the factors considered in applying Section 55 and the convention when the child is separated from his or her parents? Are the records available to the parent and the representative of the child, despite the exception regarding immigration in the recent Data Protection Act?
As I just said to the noble Lord, we do not keep official records of the numbers, but the Office of the Children’s Commissioner will look at every case where such decisions are considered—the complex cases—so that those interests are weighed before any decisions are taken.
I apologise to the noble Baroness and the noble Lord for not being clear. Clearly, safeguarding records and records of decisions taken are kept. I was trying, in the first instance, to refer back to the question of the noble Lord, Lord Kennedy; I cannot tell the noble Baroness and the noble Lord how many of those decisions were made.
Will the Minister comment on the estimate by BID—Bail for Immigration Detainees—that there are at least 170 cases where children have been separated from their parents as a result of them being detained? Will she also go back to her department to check those figures and perhaps produce a more accurate answer that Members of this House can take on board and inspect?
I understood that the numbers were 155. I do not have the details of the cases but if any noble Lords were to give me details of such cases I would be very happy to take them up. It is, however, important to consider in the round that if children are separated from their parents it is not necessarily for immigration reasons: it may be because of safeguarding issues—a parent is violent and the child needs to be separated from them—or for temporary reasons, such as the illness of the parent.