The Rights of Asylum Seekers

2. Questions to the Counsel General – in the Senedd at on 21 May 2024.

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Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative


7. What legal advice has the Counsel General provided to the Welsh Government regarding the rights of asylum seekers in Wales? OQ61129

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 3:21, 21 May 2024

Migration policy is not devolved, but Welsh Government does have responsibility for supporting migrant integration in Wales. So, we will continue to play a full, proportionate part in supporting asylum seekers, and we will aim to ensure they have access to relevant services and information to fully contribute to Welsh community life.

Photo of Janet Finch-Saunders Janet Finch-Saunders Conservative

Thank you. People around the world are facing turmoil and violence, and so, rightly, are seeking sanctuary throughout the world. In Britain, we are no different, and I'm proud of the tens of thousands of yearly asylum applicants that the UK Government processes. However, we here in Wales must approach this topic with caution, because there does not seem to be a definitive—or a difference between asylum seekers and illegal immigrants. Now, we also cannot afford to be giving out the vast amount of £1,600 a month to asylum seekers who are not eligible. For comparison, let’s remember that the standard allowance for universal credit is under £400. This is the feedback I am getting from my residents. I hope that this figure isn’t being tested as part of the wider feasibility study for Labour’s universal basic income. Can you imagine the cost if the Government has to give £1,600 a month to every Welsh citizen? I think that that is the utopia, really, here. Can the Counsel General justify how the Government can afford to keep giving these handouts when Welsh residents, my constituents, constituents across north Wales and other places, they cannot be seen by a doctor for over six months, they cannot afford to heat their homes because their council tax has risen 20 to 30 per cent in the last two years, and some people cannot even access a home? Diolch.

Photo of Mick Antoniw Mick Antoniw Labour 3:23, 21 May 2024

I would hope that you'd be ashamed of the points that you started off with, which you know are not only untrue but are grossly—[Interruption.]—grossly misleading and misrepresentative. Can I say that, in that knowledge, how disappointing it is and unethical it is to actually make those comments in that particular way?

Can I just say? The Act, the Rwanda Act, is fundamentally incompatible with the UK's human rights obligations and the fundamental principle of universality of human rights for all. Furthermore, the UN Refugee Agency has described the Act as amounting to an asylum ban, which would breach the 1951 refugee convention. There is absolutely no doubt that it also undermines the UK's standing in the world as a leader in human rights observance and respect for international law.

Let me just give this one comment, when this matter was debated in the Lords, by a former Conservative MP, Viscount Hailsham KC. He said:

'In my opinion, we should not put into a Bill a statement that is manifestly untrue...what, in other circumstances, would be described as a lie'.

Is the sovereignty of Parliament dependent on a lie? Is this what Brexit means? Is this what you have brought this country to: to pass legislation that says that a lie is a truth in order to achieve an objective that is, essentially, unlawful? I really think you should be ashamed of yourselves.