Immigration Policy: Children and Parents - Question

– in the House of Lords at 2:52 pm on 10th September 2018.

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Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing) 2:52 pm, 10th September 2018

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.

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Lord Kennedy of Southwark Lord Kennedy of Southwark Opposition Whip (Lords), Shadow Spokesperson (Home Affairs), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Housing)

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Baroness Hamwee Baroness Hamwee Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Immigration)

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Lord Harris of Haringey Lord Harris of Haringey Labour

My Lords, can the Minister clarify that answer, because the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, asked whether records were kept of the considerations taken into account in reaching the decisions? Are they kept or not?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.

Photo of Lord Bassam of Brighton Lord Bassam of Brighton Deputy Chairman of Committees, Deputy Speaker (Lords), Chair, Regenerating Seaside Towns and Communities Committee

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?

Photo of Baroness Williams of Trafford Baroness Williams of Trafford The Minister of State, Home Department, Minister for Equalities (Department for International Development)

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.