Enforced Removal (Families with Young Children)

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 12:10 pm on 10th January 2006.

Alert me about debates like this

Photo of Damian Green Damian Green Shadow Minister (Home Affairs) 12:10 pm, 10th January 2006

The hon. Gentleman specifically suggested doing that on the basis of countries.

Will the Minister tell us how many children are covered by the amnesty in its current form? How many extra children would be covered if it were extended by one or two years? I appreciate that he may not have the exact figures to hand, but they could be provided for him.

According to the Home Office press release of 22 November, the five nationalities accounting for the most removals are Serbia and Montenegro, Afghanistan, Iraq, Turkey and Pakistan. Are those also the countries to which most children are being removed? If not, to which countries are children most likely to be removed? With which of those countries does the Minister think that we have satisfactory reception arrangements when children are returned? That is particularly important for unaccompanied children, but it applies to children as part of a family as well.

The next question relates to those not covered by the amnesty. The Government's estimate of those living here illegally is a fairly elastic figure. The central figure is 430,000, but I understand that it could be 310,000 or 570,000. How many of those are children, according to the Government's best estimate? That is perhaps the most important number for all concerned with the issue, because without it we can have no real feel for the scale of the problem. We all agree that every individual forced removal of a child is a desperately hard case in which emotions will run very high, so it is vital that we develop policy on a factual basis.

The point at which the desire to run a properly managed asylum and immigration system runs directly into the natural instincts of common humanity and generosity of spirit is precisely the issue raised by this debate. I genuinely have sympathy for the Minister and his colleagues, who have to make the decisions, but the underlying problem will be solved only if the system works efficiently. It has not worked well enough in the past few years, and as long as it does not work, there will be more hard cases. Each hard case that involves the removal of children threatens to become an individual tragedy, so simply carrying on as before is not acceptable.