The amendments would allow destitute refused asylum seekers to continue to receive the basic level of support.
On amendment 226, I should point out that what we mean by the basic level of support equates to only £5 in change a day and to housing being provided for those who have nowhere to live. I have to ask whether any of us could afford to live, to eat and to raise a family on that minimum level of support. I would think not. Amendment 227 aims to expand on that by ensuring that asylum seekers have the support they need to exist, although, again, providing only very basic support.
The oft-quoted 2005 Home Office pilot study concluded that the removal of, or reduction in, support provided to asylum-seeking families had no significant influence on removing people from the UK. In fact, the year-long pilot reported that the power to remove support from families
“did not significantly influence behaviour in favour of co-operating with removal…This suggests that the section 9 provision should not be seen as a universal tool to encourage departure”.
Therefore, even though the Bill in general has a poor evidence base, I would direct Members to the evidence that does already exist, which proves that removing all support from a family will have no impact on removing them any sooner from the country.
We have to ask why we are willing to leave people, including children, in such a perilous position. The Still Human Still Here coalition suggests that removing all support could have the opposite effect from the one intended, making it harder for people to be removed from the UK. Receiving continued support will encourage families to continue to stay in touch with the appropriate authorities. That point was expanded on during our evidence sessions by Judith Dennis, from the Refugee Council, who said:
“We think that the Bill is incompatible with the processes for families to engage with the Home Office if they want to return or have come to the end of the asylum process—these measures would not be compatible with that. The Bill will shift responsibility to local authority children’s services, which have a duty to support children in need. We do not think that it will achieve the desired outcome, partly because families will inevitably lose touch with the Home Office—there will be no incentive for them to keep engaging with the Home Office to try to resolve their situation.”––[Official Report, Immigration Public Bill Committee, 20 October 2015; c. 5, Q1.]
The amendments aim to correct that by proposing that people be given basic support—and let us be clear that amendment 227 would only increase support from just over £5 a day to just over £6 a day. However, it does set a baseline of 60% of income support, which will, we hope, ensure that families receive the necessary support, but also that they continue to engage with the Home Office.
As a father, I do all I can to ensure that my kids have whatever they need, and I am sure all parents in the room and beyond feel the same. We would not accept our kids losing support, so why should we be content for the children of failed asylum seekers not to receive, at the very least, the basic level of support that we would want and demand? When it comes to children, we should not care where they are from or what their immigration status is—we should just help them when they need our help.