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 was not having a go at my hon. Friend; I am talking in general. If we read the Library pack for today's debate, we find statements along those lines, and it is important to get those messages across.

I have been a Member of Parliament for more than five years, and I have dealt with hundreds of asylum cases in that time. I have noticed a change in the applications over that period, particularly in the past few years. Psychiatric reports seem to be used as a reason why people should remain in the country. More people suddenly seem to have psychiatric problems—although I have to say that that does not apply just to asylum seekers; these days it also applies to people seeking incapacity benefit.

Why has that suddenly happened? Is it just that we have better doctors and psychiatrists to examine the cases, and people are referred to them more? Or is it because the judicial system now sees such an approach as a good way of keeping people in the country, so people are schooled in how to talk to psychiatrists? I would be interested in examining the figures. Did we not have psychiatrists three or four years ago? Have they suddenly come on to the market in the past few years?

In every case that I see, somewhere along the line it is said that the person involved is ill, or is not fit to travel to another country. In some cases there are actual illnesses. In one of my cases a gentleman is, unfortunately, dying of cancer and it is pretty obvious that he could not be sent back; in another the person has just had a heart attack, and he could hardly go back. In every other case, however, the people have strong psychiatric problems, and for them to be removed and sent home would apparently do them and their family immeasurable harm. Does the Minister have the figures to hand, or could he obtain them and let hon. Members know them? I would be interested to know whether such problems had not been looked at before, or whether they are just an excuse that some families are using to remain.

Will the Minister also examine the judicial system, particularly in Scotland? My hon. Friend the Member for Islington, North made a good point about how long cases can take, so that people stay in the UK for years. We tell families whose kids have been in school for five years to take them out and go home. Has the Minister examined the judicial system in Scotland, where a judicial review takes 18 months? South of the border a judicial review takes about six weeks. Is it any wonder that people who may be trying to abuse the system would like to come to Scotland? If they obtain a judicial review, it will take 18 months not to finish that review but for them to be allowed to go for it. Then they can bring new evidence, and they suddenly find another reason why they should get another judicial review. Such an approach stretches out the process to many years.