Enforced Removal (Families with Young Children)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:34 am on 10th January 2006.

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Photo of John Robertson John Robertson PPS (Dr Kim Howells, Minister of State), Foreign & Commonwealth Office 11:34 am, 10th January 2006

I agree, but in defence of the Minister of State, I must tell my hon. Friend that he has been to Glasgow on several occasions. On one prolonged recent visit he took considerable time to talk to Members of Parliament and the people most affected by the removals. I will commend him for doing that, while chastising him for not being here today.

It is pleasing to see the hon. Members for Orkney and Shetland (Mr. Carmichael) and for Dundee, East (Stewart Hosie) here today. It would be even more pleasing if those Members went back and asked their local councils to take on board the job that Glasgow city council took on in allowing asylum seekers to come to our friendly city, where I believe that they are looked after better than in any other city in the country. It would be more pleasing if the rest of Scotland, instead of getting on board the discussion on asylum, got on with trying to look after those people— giving them a home and welcoming them into society. That is my little plea for Glasgow and against the rest of Scotland.

A lot of press coverage north of the border, including the extracts in the excellent information pack that has been put together for today's debate, mentions Glasgow in particular. Yet some press statements that are emerging, by people who have been shouting the most against what has been happening to asylum seekers in the Glasgow area, are, unfortunately, from outside that area. Sad as it is, they have done very little to help alleviate the problem.

There are many points on which we can agree. We all agree that, as my hon. Friend Jeremy Corbyn said, we have a moral obligation to look after refugees—genuine refugees, that is. We need to adjust the asylum process to establish who is entitled, and everybody undergoing that process must be treated fairly and have access to a full range of services. Everyone who meets the asylum criteria must be welcomed fully into our society. My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North did not actually say those words, but I am sure that is what he meant in saying that those people offer much to the multicultural development of the UK. They add many of their cultures to ours and will make the UK a better place in the long run. It is to be hoped that parties such as the British National party will then find no place in our society.

What should happen to people who have been through the process and failed in their application? Have they no right to be in the country? How should they be returned to their country of origin? Or, as some would say, should they be allowed to remain here no matter what the circumstances? Those are the questions that we must raise in this debate. They have already been raised in certain ways, and I hope to add to that debate in my short contribution.

It is clear that the asylum system needs to be examined and improved. None the less, many people who come to this country to seek asylum make applications that are utterly unfounded. They seek to use the system to remain here, and eventually to benefit from an amnesty. I am against the amnesties that have been called for. As a result of amnesties—which have caused me many problems as an MP trying to deal with asylum cases—many people suddenly come out of the woodwork, as it were, and try to stay here when they should never have been allowed to stay in the first place. They had disappeared into the country, when they should probably have been removed at the outset.