Consequential etc provision

Part of Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:45 pm on 26th February 2019.

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Photo of Caroline Nokes Caroline Nokes The Minister for Immigration 2:45 pm, 26th February 2019

We might expect that EEA nationals, who came here and claimed asylum in the unlikely circumstances that we would deem a claim to be admissible, might move into employment at a rate of about 25%. I am conscious that these figures are very low and there are areas where we could do better. Either the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston or the hon. Member for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East made the point that the longer somebody is out of work, if they are an EEA national who is claiming asylum, the harder it is for them to move into work.

I hope that those comments, whether in order or not, have reassured hon. Members that we are taking the matter really seriously. It is an important issue but amendment 19 does not address the wider issue, being limited to only EEA nationals and their family members. Given my comments that it is incredibly restrictive and possibly discriminatory, I invite the hon. Member for Stretford and Urmston to withdraw the amendment and look to our review on the existing policy.

I now turn to new clause 23. I thank the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North and welcome their ongoing contributions to this debate. The new clause aims to ensure that the UK must reach and legislate for an agreement with the EU in accordance with section 17 of the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018 within an implementation period or within three months of the UK leaving the EU without a deal. Section 17 commits the UK to seek to negotiate an agreement with the EU whereby unaccompanied asylum-seeking children can be reunited with close family members and vice versa, where it is in the child’s best interests.

I hope that the Committee will agree that there should not be a deadline in domestic legislation for reaching an agreement with the EU. The UK cannot compel the EU to negotiate on this issue and, more importantly, we cannot compel the EU to do so for a specific timeframe. I understand the intention behind the new clause proposed by the hon. Members and reassure them of the provisions that will be in place for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children seeking to join family members in the UK when the UK withdraws from the EU.

In addition to the commitments under section 17 of the withdrawal Act, the UK will continue to operate under the Dublin III regulation in any agreed implementation period. In the event of the UK withdrawing from the EU without a deal, the Home Office will continue to consider inward Dublin transfer requests relating to family reunification that are made before 29 March 2019. That would also apply to any take charge requests accepted before 29 March this year. Furthermore, EU exit does not change the Government’s commitment to relocating 480 unaccompanied children to the UK under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016, commonly known as the Dubs amendment. I therefore invite the hon. Members for Cumbernauld, Kilsyth and Kirkintilloch East and for Paisley and Renfrewshire North to withdraw the amendment.