Moved by Lord Dubs
56: After Clause 4, insert the following new Clause—“Children in care and children entitled to care leaving support: entitlement to remain(1) Any child who has the right of free movement removed by the provisions contained in Part 1 of this Act, and who is in the care of a local authority or entitled to care leaving support, is deemed to have and be granted indefinite leave to remain within the United Kingdom under the EU Settlement Scheme (“the Scheme”). (2) The Secretary of State must, for the purposes of subsection (1), issue guidance to local authorities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland setting out their duty to identify the children of EEA and Swiss nationals in their care or entitled to care leaving support.(3) Before issuing guidance under this section the Secretary of State must consult—(a) the relevant Scottish Minister;(b) the relevant Welsh Minister; and(c) the relevant Northern Ireland Minister.(4) The Secretary of State must make arrangements to ensure that personal data relating to nationality processed by local authorities for purposes of identification under subsection (1) is used solely for this purpose and no other immigration control purpose.(5) Any child subject to subsection (1) who is identified and granted indefinite leave to remain status after the deadline for applications under the Scheme will be deemed to have had such status and all rights associated with that status from the time of the Scheme deadline.(6) This section comes into force on the day on which this Act is passed and remains in effect for 5 years from the day of the deadline of the Scheme.(7) For the purposes of this section, children “in the care of a local authority” are defined as children receiving care under any of the following provisions—(a) section 20 of the Children Act 1989 (provision of accommodation for children: general);(b) section 31 of the Children Act 1989 (care and supervision);(c) section 75 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (general duty of local authority to secure sufficient accommodation for looked after children);(d) section 25 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (provision of accommodation for children);(e) Article 25 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (interpretation); and(f) Article 50 of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (care orders and supervision orders).(8) For the purposes of this section, children “entitled to care leaving support” means a child receiving support under any of the following provisions—(a) paragraph 19B of Schedule 2 to the Children Act 1989 (preparation for ceasing to be looked after);(b) section 23A(2) of the Children Act 1989 (the responsible authority and relevant children);(c) section 23C(1) of the Children Act 1989 (continuing functions in respect of former relevant children);(d) section 104 of the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (young people entitled to support under sections 105 to 115);(e) sections 29 and 30 of the Children (Scotland) Act 1995 (advice and assistance for young persons formerly looked after by local authorities); and(f) Article 35(2) of the Children (Northern Ireland) Order 1995 (persons qualifying for advice and assistance).”Member’s explanatory statementThis new Clause aims to ensure that the children of EEA and Swiss nationals who are in care, and those who are entitled to care leaving support, are granted automatic Indefinite Leave to Remain under the EU Settlement Scheme to ensure they do not become undocumented.
My Lords, Amendment 56 has cross-party support in this Committee and in the House of Commons, where it was debated some time ago. Its purpose is to fast-track children in care and care leavers through the EU settlement scheme and grant them settled status. I am grateful to the Children’s Society and other NGOs for their help in preparing for this debate. It is my contention that very little decisive action has been taken to ensure that none of these children becomes undocumented as the scheme draws to a close in June next year. By the Government’s own estimates, 5,000 looked-after children and 4,000 care leavers need to regularise their immigration status because the UK is leaving the EU. The children in this group face three distinct problems: their identification, the problems they may have in applying, and whether they have settled or pre-settled status. I will deal with each of these in turn.
An analysis by the Children’s Society found that, in January this year, 153 out of 211 local authorities across the UK had identified just 3,612 EU, EEA or Swiss looked-after children and care leavers. Even with a margin of error factored into these statistics, that is well off the mark of the estimated total of 9,000. The Government have stated that it is the duty of local authorities to gather information and apply to the scheme on behalf of children in care and to assist care leavers in applying. I am well aware of the enormous pressure on local authorities, particularly on social workers, and I shall argue later that this amendment, if accepted, will actually lessen the burden on social workers rather than increase them.
Evidence given through research by Coram shows mixed practice among local authorities, with fears that some are not totally aware of their duties as set out in the guidance and are making no attempt to identify children in their care who need to regularise their status. Even before we come to the question of rates of applications for status received, there is the issue of oversight. What more are the Government going to do to ensure that children are being identified as needing to regularise their status before the EU settlement scheme draws to a close in 10 months’ time?
Turning to the problems of applying, of the 3,612 children in care and care leavers identified by local authorities in the Children’s Society’s analysis, only 11% have received either pre-settled or settled status. Evidence from the Greater Manchester Immigration Aid Unit shows that this group is having difficulties acquiring nationality documents and evidencing their length of residence in the UK in order to apply for settled status. Social workers, who are hard pressed enough, are often having to spend their time chasing various European embassies to acquire the appropriate paperwork. Everyone should agree that this is not the best use of their time, particularly in the present circumstances.
If the amendment is accepted, social workers could apply straight to the Home Office, without having to pursue the case through various European embassies. That would speed up the process and lessen the total burden on social workers. The children I am talking about have led complex lives. They often require expert legal and immigration advice to understand their options, including their eligibility for British citizenship. The Government should be streamlining this process for children in their care, not making it more difficult. Would the Minister consider lowering the evidential burden to ensure that these children receive settled status?
The third hurdle faced by some of these children is that, if they receive pre-settled, rather than settled, status, they will be in a vulnerable position. Children in care should not be given a temporary immigration status that expires. In five years’ time, when a young person with pre-settled status needs to reapply for settled status, it may well be that their social worker has changed, that they are no longer in care, or that grant-funded projects to support application have ended. The child surely has a right to apply for status under the EU settlement scheme either independently or in line with their parents’ status. For obvious reasons, it may be difficult for children in care to claim status linked to their parents’ situation. This right should be extended for children in care, so that they can apply in line with their corporate parents—the local authority—and receive permanent immigration status. What safe- guards are the Government putting in place to ensure that children in care and care leavers do not face a cliff edge when their pre-settled status expires and they reapply for settled status?
I am aware that the Home Office has sought to alleviate fears by stating that these children will be able to apply past the EUSS deadline of June 2021. What this means in reality is that children not identified and assisted through the EU settlement scheme would still be undocumented and in a difficult position. As is true of all undocumented children in the UK, this group will run into issues in adulthood when trying to rent a property, applying for a university grant or they are required to pay for NHS treatment while their immigration status is being regularised. Care leavers will still have to deal with a mountain of difficulties by themselves in order to secure the status they are owed. It can never, ever be in a child’s best interests to be undocumented. The Government have been warned that failure to act will result in this for children in the care of authorities across the UK.
To conclude, it is important to see that the amendment would place a duty on local authorities to identify children in their care who need to regularise their status. Within the guidelines issued to local authorities and Home Office workers, it would lower the evidential burden needed for children to apply and propose a fast track through the EU settlement scheme. It would end the concept of pre-settled status and ensure that all children had settled status only. I beg to move.
My Lords, I support Amendment 56 in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs. As he just explained, the proposed new clause would ensure that the children of EEA citizens and Swiss nationals who are already in care, along with those entitled to care, are able to stay in the United Kingdom under the EU settlement scheme. Where otherwise would these children go? Therefore, in guaranteeing their protection, this amendment is both logical and necessary. I am sure that the Minister will agree.
We are dealing here with a small problem. The amendment would ensure that children in care do not fall into a crack, with their status undetermined and undocumented, now or in the future. The numbers involved are not huge; as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, explained, they are probably in the thousands. Nobody would accuse the Government of deliberately creating this crack into which these young people might fall. It is accidental that this has emerged. I would not want to suggest that the Government have been remiss in letting it arise, provided, of course, that they feel able to do the decent thing and accept the overwhelming case that the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, made and either accept his amendment or produce a similar one that does the trick. It is the decent thing to do and I am convinced that the Government will want to do that to prevent the children falling into the crack that has accidentally been created.
I have one other point, and it is one I fear I may be becoming tedious on—perhaps I am always tedious. It is about Lesbos and the Moria camp. Yesterday in Berlin, the German ruling CDU, CSU, SPD coalition announced its agreement that Germany would take 2,750 homeless refugees from Lesbos, including 150 unaccompanied children and, in addition, children with serious illnesses and their immediate families. I asked what we will do about the disaster on Lesbos twice in Committee and the Minister did not feel able to pick up my remarks on either occasion, so this time I shall ask her four simple, straightforward questions. I hope she will be able to answer them.
First, does she agree that there would be reputational benefit for this country, at a time when we need friends, in doing what the Germans are doing? Secondly, does she agree that there is a strong humanitarian case for our doing so? Thirdly, does she agree that it is an emergency case, given that more than 14,000 people, including more than 400 unaccompanied children, are sleeping rough around the ruins of the burnt-out camp? Fourthly, will she please tell us, at the end of the discussion on this amendment, what the Government are going to do about it?
My Lords, I support Amendment 56. I associate myself with the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, in connection with the situation in Lesbos, and I hope the Minister will be able answer his questions. I commend the proposers of the amendment, in particular the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, in his consistent championing of vulnerable child refugees and vulnerable children in general.
We all know that children in care are especially disadvantaged, almost by definition, and there are too many tragic and at times disgraceful stories of the suffering of such children. The commitment to expand foster care is testimony to the fact that being looked after by the state is a last resort. The state is not usually the best parent a child can have, but for some it is the only one. That puts extra responsibility on us when rules change dramatically, as they are because of Brexit, to go the extra mile to ensure that these children are not further disadvantaged as they embark on adult life. It is and should be the responsibility of the state as parent to ensure that children without parents and in the care of the state get the support they need to secure their status. This amendment sets out to secure this.
The Children’s Society’s excellent briefing, to which the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, referred, highlights that more than 3 million people have completed applications, including more than 400,000 children. However, the society points out that the children’s rate is low compared with that for adults. I will not repeat its statistics, but they clearly point to the likelihood that thousands of children could be left undocumented and potentially stateless without the proactive measures proposed in the amendment. Although I say, “thousands of children”, and in the grand scheme of things the numbers are not that large, these are real people with real needs.
This could further blight the lives of young people who will be struggling to build their lives in a post-Covid, post-Brexit environment. The last thing they will need is to be confronted, at a critical point in their lives when seeking employment or other roles, with a challenge to their status because they did not know and were not properly informed of the need to secure settled status or helped to go about it. Because, on the face of it, this is not an urgent matter, overstretched local authorities might postpone support as a priority, but surely it is better to address it while the issue is fresh rather than wait until time has elapsed, people have forgotten, the circumstances have been overlooked and the possibility of people finding themselves on the wrong side of their status is therefore enhanced at a later stage. None of us wants to see tragic headlines about children facing either deportation or lack of identity and status.
I urge the Government to accept the amendment and show that they are on the side of young people. I accept that it is not their intention to create these problems, but, given the opportunity of this amendment, I hope they will recognise that these young people do not need additional barriers to their progress in life and that this amendment is to be commended.
My Lords, I strongly support the amendment. The Government should be doing all they can to ensure that the estimated nearly 10,000 looked-after children and care leavers are registered. It would seem that the Children’s Society has done more to identify these children than the Government have. It is not sufficient to say that they will allow late applications, welcome as that is, because that means these children will, as has already been said, be undocumented and could then run into all sorts of problems under the hostile/compliant environments. Will the Minister undertake to issue a formal policy statement and guidance that confirms formally what has been said about late claims? Stakeholder groups such as the Children’s Society and the3million are concerned that it is not there in a formal way.
It is not enough to say that it is the responsibility of local authorities and leave it at that, with only non-statutory guidance. According to the Children’s Society and the3million, many local authorities seem unaware of this, as my noble friend Lord Dubs said. To reinforce his questions, will the Minister say exactly what the Government are doing to ensure that local authorities are aware of their responsibilities; to support local authorities to fulfil those responsibilities, because we know the pressure they are under; and to ensure that local authorities are doing all they can to identify and support children for whom they have a responsibility? The evidence suggests that many of these hard-pressed local authorities are not doing what is required.
The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said that to accept this amendment would be to do the decent thing. Indeed, it would, and I do not think it is tedious at all for him to remind noble Lords about what is happening in Lesbos. It is decent that he has done that, and I hope the Minister will answer his questions in a decent way.
My Lords, it is a pleasure to follow all the noble Lords who have spoken on this amendment thus far. I particularly commend the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, as others have, for his tireless work in this area.
Most of the questions have been asked and most of the issues have been canvassed, so I will be brief. I think everybody accepts that these are acutely vulnerable children. They do not have a parent who is able to look out for them; the state is their guardian, and that creates huge humanitarian responsibilities for the state that we expect our Government to live up to.
I also echo the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr: where is the Statement and the action from the Government on the situation in Lesbos? We have seen significant action from European Governments, particularly the German and French Governments, so I join others in saying that I very much hope that we will hear an answer from the Minister on what the Government are going to do to help those intensely vulnerable people.
My Lords, I have added my name to this amendment. The Government have given us an example of the reasonable grounds there may be for submitting a late application to the EU settled status scheme, but in this case the applicant is a child whose parent or guardian failed to apply on their behalf.
This amendment is about children of a corporate parent: the state. As we have heard, the Home Office estimates that there are 5,000 looked-after children and 4,000 care leavers who would need to apply. Not only are these children considered vulnerable—a word we are applying quite widely to very different situations—but in this context they have rights which it is not possible, or certainly not easy in practical terms, for them to exercise. Their parent, the state, is in a rather different position from a flesh-and-blood mother or father.
This is a very nifty amendment. It means that social workers would not have to chase after paperwork; they are very overloaded, as we have heard. It does not leave children in the precarious position of having to apply late, or of being undocumented, when they would be exposed to ineligibility for NHS treatment that is not charged for, and there would be no cliff edge at the end of pre-settled status. I think I am right in saying that the five-year period in subsection (6) of the proposed new clause would mean that it would apply to babies who are currently, or by next June, under five years old.
As the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, this is not too hard to sort out—at least, it does not seem so to me. I hope the Minister will agree. Like others, I think that the noble Lord’s questions are relevant to today, if not relevant precisely to this amendment. They are very important. I look forward to supporting this amendment.
My Lords, I fully support Amendment 56, moved by my noble friend Lord Dubs, which would add a new clause to the Bill. This clause would provide for children who are EEA and Swiss nationals and in care, along with those entitled to care-leaving support, to be granted automatic indefinite leave to remain under the EU settlement scheme.
This amendment has wide cross-party support. The idea behind it had support in the other House, and it has that today. Every speaker so far, from different sides of the House, has spoken in support of the amendment. I am sure the Minister has taken that on board and will want to give us a positive response.
As my noble friend Lord Dubs said, there are vast numbers of these children and the amendment would ensure that none of them become undocumented. Identification is a serious problem, as my noble friend outlined. The different practices adopted by different local authorities is a real problem in itself.
The amendment would speed up the process and enable social workers, who do a fantastic job—we all know that they are under extreme pressure—to apply directly to the Home Office without having to deal with consulates and embassies and all the bureaucracy you have in dealing with another country when trying to get the right documents identified. You would avoid all that work, paperwork and bureaucracy, and go straight to the Home Office.
My noble friend Lord Dubs also asked the Minister about the safeguards in place for children who have pre-settled status, and that question deserves a careful response. As the noble Earl, Lord Dundee, said, this is a sensible amendment that really deserves a positive response from the Government.
I agree with all the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr of Kinlochard, on this amendment. It is the decent thing to do for these children. We are talking about a relatively small number of children, but it would ensure that nobody falls into the trap of becoming undocumented. As the noble Lord, Lord Bruce of Bennachie, said, children in care face all sorts of additional challenges; they are not with their parents and the local authority in effect is looking after them. All this amendment seeks to do is to ensure that they do not have further issues to deal with; a young person leaving care, or in many years’ time, may have the problem of being undocumented and unable to establish their identity properly. This is a very small measure which the Government should give way on.
Like my noble friend Lady Lister of Burtersett, I commend the work of the Children’s Society to identify and raise the plights of these children. The society has campaigned to ensure that they have protection and that their problems are not added to by becoming undocumented. As I say, it is the decent thing to do. Equally, I am sure that we will get a response from the Minister on the amendment, and on the issue in Lesbos.
I should also draw the attention of the House to the fact that I am a vice-president of the Local Government Association. Local authorities do a fantastic job. Certain authorities, particularly Kent, are under particular pressure regarding children’s issues, but they generally do a fantastic job. This is one small measure which the Government could accept to help authorities and make it a bit easier for them in the work that they do. I hope that the Minister can give a positive response to us today, and maybe we can come back to this on Report.
My Lords, I thank the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, for moving his Amendment 56, which calls for children in care and care leavers who have their right of free movement removed by the Bill to be granted indefinite leave to remain.
May I say at the outset that I absolutely agree with the noble Lords, Lord Dubs and Lord Kennedy, and others that no child should be undocumented, and with the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, that we should not create any cracks? So that I do not disappoint the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, yet again, I will immediately address the issues that he raised.
First, he asked if we should do as the Germans do. I think we should do as we do. As far as reputational risk is concerned, I do not think we should help these children because it has an influence on our reputation; I think we should help children because it is the right thing to do, and in fact this country has a very long history of helping children who need our support.
The noble Lord asked me if I agree that it is an emergency. Absolutely, I agree that it is an emergency. Of course, I also agree that it is a humanitarian issue. One could not fail to be moved by the plight that these children and their families sometimes go through.
The noble Lord then asked me the million-dollar question: what the Government are doing about it. On
The noble Lord also asked me about Dublin family reunion cases for unaccompanied children affected by the fire. We remain fully committed to ensuring that eligible individuals seeking asylum in Europe, including unaccompanied children with family members in the UK, can continue to be transferred under the Dublin regulation until the end of the transition period. It might be helpful for the House to know that throughout the pandemic, the UK has continued to remain open to receiving Dublin transfers. I mentioned on Monday that three group flights from Greece have taken place in recent months—on
The noble Lord asked whether the UK will accept resettlement of migrants in Greece to the UK. As he probably knows, we do not participate in the relocation within Europe scheme but we have refugee resettlement schemes that, crucially, provide safe and legal routes direct from refugee host countries for more than 25,000 vulnerable refugees in the greatest need of protection. We work closely with the UNHCR, which is the internationally recognised and mandated agency for dealing with refugees.
Having dealt with the questions of the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, which I could not go another Committee day without answering, I think I should also clarify our slight difference of views on Monday. Having looked at Hansard, I have realised what the issue was: I was talking about unaccompanied asylum-seeking children; he was talking about asylum seekers more generally. I hope that that is a clarification.
I want to acknowledge that this amendment is very well intentioned because it concerns the important issue of how, as we end free movement, we ensure that we protect the rights of a key vulnerable group—children in care and care leavers. The amendment does not achieve this but places that vulnerable group at greater risk of ending up without secure evidence, which is so important, of UK immigration status. We know from Windrush that a declaratory system, under which immigration is conferred automatically without providing secure evidence, does not work. The new clause would risk repeating that experience for this vulnerable group of children and young people, something the Government cannot support. What they want to do is focus their efforts—which noble Lords have talked about this afternoon—and resources on working closely with local authorities and other partners to ensure that these children and young people, like any other vulnerable group, get UK immigration status under the EU settlement scheme and the secure evidence they will need to prove their rights and entitlements for decades to come.
Since the full launch in March last year, we have had agreements and plans in place with local authorities to ensure this. Local authorities and, in Northern Ireland, health and social care trusts, are responsible for making an application under the scheme on behalf of an eligible looked-after child for whom they have parental responsibility by way of a court order. Surely, that order provides a date. Their responsibilities in other cases to signpost the scheme and support applications have also been agreed. These concern children for whom there is no court order but where the local authority has a clear interest in supporting the best interests of the child—for example, children accommodated by the local authority, children in need and care leavers.
I understand totally the concerns expressed by noble Lords about looked-after children and care leavers, and we must absolutely ensure that their corporate parents secure the best possible outcomes for them. We have therefore provided a range of support services such as the Home Office-run settlement resolution centre, open seven days a week, to ensure that local authorities and health and social care trusts can access help and advice when they need it. We have engaged extensively with relevant stakeholders such as the Department for Education, the Local Government Association, the Ministry of Justice, the Association of Directors of Children’s Services and equivalents in the devolved Administrations, just to understand and address the needs of looked-after children and care leavers and to ensure they are supported.
I should also say that guidance has been issued to local authorities regarding their role and responsibilities for making or supporting applications under the EU settlement scheme for looked-after children and care leavers. The Home Office is also holding teleconferences specifically for local authority staff responsible for making relevant applications in order to support them and provide a direct point of contact for them within the Home Office. As an illustration—and returning to the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Dubs—the EUSS safeguarding user group network of voluntary organisations has helped more than 200,000 at-risk and vulnerable people to apply to the scheme.
In addition, the Home Office has provided £9 million of grant funding to 57 voluntary organisations across the UK to support vulnerable citizens in applying to the scheme. I have alluded to several organisations specialising in that support for vulnerable children and young people. We have now committed a further £8 million for this work, allowing charities and local authorities to bid for grant funding to provide support to vulnerable people and ensure that nobody is left behind.
Finally, the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, asked about a formal policy statement on late claims. Early next year, we will issue guidance—not on an exhaustive list because that would be restrictive in its own right—on the areas where a late claim might be valid. She talked about children who are in local authority care. There could be women in coercive or controlling relationships—absolutely—and they could be a cohort. The guidance will be issued early next year but for now, we want people to apply to the scheme.
I hope that, with those explanations, the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, will be happy to withdraw the amendment.
I am grateful to the Minister for responding to my questions. I guess that I am rightly rebuked for suggesting that a relevant factor in considering what we should do about the victims of Lesbos is our reputation around the world. I suppose it is a case of déformation professionnelle. I used to be a diplomat and I am therefore keen on our trying to recover some of our lost reputation. Perhaps the Government—less the noble and learned Lord, Lord Keen—are less keen today. Perhaps they do not recognise the extent of the reputational damage. Anyway, I agree that that is not strictly relevant.
The Minister agreed that there is an emergency case for helping and an overwhelming humanitarian case for helping. But—I hope the Minister will forgive my saying so—she seems to be saying that we propose to do nothing at all about it. Everything that she cited—the money in April and the flights in July and August—took place before the fire on the island of Lesbos and before these 14,500 people, who are now sleeping rough, were displaced. If she accepts that there is a new urgent humanitarian case then it would be very good if the Government could do something about it.
I note that a number of people spoke on the same lines as me about this problem, so I hope the Minister will take back to Whitehall the idea that there seems to be a feeling in this House that we ought to be doing something to help the victims of Moria.
My Lords, the noble Lord can probably tell that I have never been a diplomat. However, I take his point in absolutely good faith. It is probably both reputational and our duty to help those in need around the world.
I spoke to the noble Lord about the joint historic migration plan, which confirms our closer co-operation with Greece. I was speaking to the noble Lord, Lord Alton, before we even began this Committee stage, and I think that we all need to get together and work out solutions for upstream work and to help the desperate people in the regions who will never even get to Europe. We need to tackle some of the drivers of the terrible criminality that goes on, which has no intention of helping the most vulnerable people at all.
I was not sure whether the Minister was talking about money that had been paid to Greece to help, or money that was going to be paid. Clearly, money is needed—I am in no position to think how much that might be—but it is not just about money.
I commend to noble Lords the BBC Radio 4 programme “More or Less” this morning, which objectively dealt with where the UK comes in comparison with other nations in taking refugees and assisting asylum seekers. The tables I have in front of me show that, combining both resettled refugees and asylum seekers, we take less than a quarter of the number taken by Greece and less than 10% of the number taken by Germany. This is not a competition, except a competition to do better. I wanted to put that on the record.
I also want to respond to the points the Minister has just made. The best upstream action is to provide safe and legal routes. She mentioned that in her first response, and I commend her for that. That is where the focus needs to be.
My Lords, I do not disagree with the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee: we need to provide safe and legal routes, and through our resettlement schemes we do provide them. We are all in danger of agreeing violently, because we want to help the most vulnerable and we want places like Greece, that need our support, to get it.
The noble Baroness asked whether the money had been paid or would be paid. It has been paid. She will of course remember that, back in the day, we put quite a phenomenal amount of money into helping people in the region who will never get out and who will never make the journey over to Europe.
My Lords, the Minister referred to the resettlement scheme, but we heard the other day that that is suspended, and it is not at all clear when it will start again. I have a simple question. The noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said that as it is accepted that there is an urgent humanitarian case, it would be good if the Government did something about it. I still do not understand why we are not doing something about it. Why are we not acting like, say, Germany?
My Lords, I do not think that we, as a country, have been backward in coming forward to other countries that need our help. We are working closely with Greece. As I said, we have given it money to deal with some of the most vulnerable people on its islands, and we will continue to do that.
My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister, but what I heard in the first question from the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, was about taking refugees from the camp in Lesbos. She talked exclusively about unaccompanied children. Germany had initially agreed to take 400 unaccompanied children, but has now changed that decision and will take in 1,553 refugees from Lesbos, making up the difference in the numbers with adults. Can the Minister clarify that the Government’s position on not taking adult refugees from anywhere in Europe has not changed despite the disaster in Lesbos?
What I said was that we did not participate in the EU relocation scheme; I am not sure whether we ever have. I am saying that we will absolutely meet our obligations under Dublin, and if a request comes from the UNHCR for us to take displaced people from Greece who are eligible to come under Dublin, we will of course consider that.
My Lords, the Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I understand her position to be that the amendment we are discussing is not necessary and could make the situation worse. Apparently the Home Office supports the aims of the amendment but it is not going to act, because there are measures already in place to deal with this question, and it does not want any children to end up undocumented. Maybe I am wrong, but I am sure that if I am, the Minister will correct me. If I am correct, is she giving a cast-iron assurance that the Home Office will not let any of those children become undocumented, and that in the period ahead it will not take decisions that undermine what she has said to us today?
What I am saying is that the Home Office, in conjunction with other departments, will ensure that we can identify every child, or indeed adult, in that vulnerable category and that they are assisted where possible. As I said the other day, the EU settlement scheme will not close and reasonable grounds for late applications will not end, so if any people—either adults or children—are identified in future as coming into the category that noble Lords have spoken about, they will be documented.
My Lords, so many things have been raised in the debate that I shall be hard put to it to spend only a short time dealing with them. First, I am still concerned, because the Minister said that although she agreed with the sentiment, she thought Amendment 56 was unnecessary and might be counter- productive. I am not convinced that, next June, we will not see a large number of children who, as the noble Lord, Lord Kerr, said, have fallen through the crack and are undocumented, and nothing much will be done for them. That is the concern. Short of repeating the point in this debate, we will be forced to keep asking Parliamentary Questions to find out whether all those children have been identified and had their status granted.
The Minister did not talk about the difference between pre-settled and settled status, but the thrust of the debate was that we must give people settled status otherwise they are still left in limbo and a state of uncertainty.
I would like to feel that the Home Office will redouble its efforts to make sure that the amendment is unnecessary, but I am bound to say that I am not that hopeful. I fear that we will have to go on pressing the Government as to where we have got. I find that a bit disappointing, despite the fact that the Minister’s sentiments were very much in support of the aim of the amendment.
Turning now to some of the specific comments, I am grateful to all noble Lords who contributed to the debate. I particularly welcome the comments on Moria made by the noble Lord, Lord Kerr. I was going to raise this but did not know whether I should at this point. On the other hand, by the time we get to Report, when this issue will come up, another two or three weeks will have gone by. It is such an urgent matter than I can only press the Minister that we can do a bit more than we are doing. We cannot do everything. All we should do is act in concert with other EU countries, even if we are not part of the scheme, and say, “Look, we’re going to play our part in helping.”
We have done something already, of course—before the fire in Moria—but the Greek Government appealed for help from all countries. We are friendly with the Greek Government; we have got an agreement with them. The least we can do is say that we will take some more children, especially the ones who can reunite with their family here.
I was concerned by the Minister’s comment that Dublin III will be operational until the end of December. Of course it will be, but we are worried about what will happen after then. We are concerned that there will be no safeguards unless the Government act on the amendment that we discussed the other day, which is to say that we will negotiate to continue the arrangement long after we have left the EU. I fear that that is not the Government’s position; I would like to feel that it were. There is a real gap here in what the Government are doing, and I am disappointed. We will come to the end of December and there will be children with relatives and family here who will no longer have the right to come here.
Having said that, I am grateful to the Minister and the other noble Lords who contributed to the debate on this amendment. We will have to watch and see. If the Government are as good as the Minister’s word—that is a big statement—maybe it will all get sorted by June next year. I would like to think so, but at the moment I am still doubtful.
I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.
Amendment 56 withdrawn.
Amendments 57 to 61 not moved.