Schedule 6 - Support for certain categories of migrant

Part of Immigration Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 9:30 am on 10th November 2015.

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Photo of James Brokenshire James Brokenshire Minister of State (Home Office) (Security and Immigration) 9:30 am, 10th November 2015

We have already had a wide-ranging debate on schedule 6, so I do not intend to return to some of the “in principle” issues of which we have had significant discussion. The two amendments in the group, however, touch on the narrow issue of further submissions and concern how we propose to deal with failed asylum seekers who submit further submissions such that their removal would breach the UK’s obligations under the convention on refugees or under article 3 of the European convention on human rights.

A procedure is set out in paragraph 353 of the immigration rules for dealing with such cases, which broadly results in three possible outcomes for the submissions: outright rejection; rejection, but there is a fresh right of appeal against the decision; or acceptance, and the person is granted leave to remain in the UK. Only about 15% of cases are granted leave to remain. Most are found to be without merit and often merely repeat matters already considered and rejected by the immigration judge who dealt with the asylum appeal.

Under existing arrangements, section 4(2) of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 is used to support persons who have made further submissions and who require support if they would otherwise be destitute while the submissions are under consideration. Section 4 is to be repealed by the Bill, but we consider it appropriate to retain a mechanism to support those who have lodged submissions, and the Bill does so by amending section 95 of the 1999 Act in order to provide an avenue of support under that measure, subject to the conditions that I will describe.

The system would be wholly unmanageable if a failed asylum seeker were immediately able to access support solely by lodging further submissions and, if the submissions were to be rejected, to continue to receive that support for a “grace period”—21 days for a single person—before that support is stopped. That would be the impact of the amendments.

To illustrate my point, on day one, the failed asylum seeker might lodge the further submissions and be eligible for support. Then, even if the submissions were rejected on day two, they would be entitled to support for at least another 21 days—longer if children were in the household, up to 28 days—during which time they would be able to lodge fresh submissions and so continue the cycle. Therefore, under schedule 6 to the Bill, the arrangements will not work in that way.

Instead, the person will be eligible for support only if the submissions have remained outstanding for a period set out in regulations. We have not made a final decision on how long that period will be, but we expect it to be five working days in most cases, although there may be issues of vulnerability. The shadow Minister, the hon. and learned Member for Holborn and St Pancras, has set out some of the policy framework that will inform that. In effect, the position will remain largely unchanged from current arrangements.

Once submissions are lodged, the person may seek support under section 4(2) of the 1999 Act, but that is normally provided only if a decision on the further submissions and accompanying support application is not made within five working days. Special consideration will continue to be given to cases in which the person is clearly in a vulnerable position, for example because of a disability or in the case of a pregnant woman. In such  cases, support is usually granted if a decision on the further submissions is not made within two working days. We expect to continue those special provisions under the new arrangements and will reflect them in the regulations.

A further issue to do with section 95 was raised, and I hope that what I say will be helpful. It does not make sense to place a person on one form of support under section 95 in order to facilitate access to another form of support, for example normal welfare benefits. We work closely with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure that the process of connecting a person granted refugee leave with access to mainstream welfare benefits works as smoothly as possible. We also ensure that the person is assigned a national insurance number at that point, which speeds up the process of applying for DWP benefits.

It is also important that people on section 95 support have time to secure DWP benefits if they are granted refugee status. In those cases, people receive a grace period of 28 days of further support to enable them to obtain mainstream benefits, and we have been working with the DWP to ensure that that process works as smoothly as possible, for example by updating the documentation a person receives when they are given notice that the grace period has started. We also ensure that the person is assigned a national insurance number, as I have described, and therefore it is an ongoing process. I hope that with that reassurance, the hon. and learned Gentleman will withdraw the amendment.