People Granted Asylum: Government Support

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 11:17 am on 26 March 2024.

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Photo of Michael Tomlinson Michael Tomlinson Minister of State (Minister for Illegal Migration) 11:17, 26 March 2024

It is a real pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mrs Harris, and to respond to Tim Farron; I congratulate him on securing this debate. I also welcome the interventions by Afzal Khan and the ever-present hon. Member for Strangford (Jim Shannon). He always makes meaningful contributions to these debates, as did the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton.

I will start by challenging the tone of the remarks from the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale. He started well, by rightly acknowledging that this is a welcoming country, and I agree: it is welcoming and generous. He will know that one of the challenges of my job relates to illegal migration. One reason why I am passionate about this role is that to ensure that we remain generous as a country and to ensure that all our constituents recognise the need for us to continue to be welcoming, we must crack down on illegal migration. However, that is not the subject of today’s debate.

Let me make it clear that when someone is granted refugee status or humanitarian protection, they are not simply left to fend for themselves. In the hon. Gentleman’s words, that would not be in keeping with the values of our country—the values that we share—and it would be at odds with our long tradition of welcoming and helping people who have fled tyranny, oppression or persecution.

The hon. Gentleman raised the issue of the asylum backlog, and I join him in welcoming the Prime Minister’s commitment to clearing the legacy asylum backlog. That has been delivered, with 74,000 initial decisions made. I know that the hon. Gentleman welcomes that and recognises it as important, as do I. At the time, however, the Prime Minister made sure that the backlog cannot be cleared at the expense of our security and necessary detailed background checks, as I know the hon. Gentleman would acknowledge. We have taken steps to speed up asylum processing while maintaining the important integrity of our security at the border.

The hon. Gentleman also mentioned the move-on period, and it is important to understand the context when we look at that. He is right that following the service of an asylum decision, an individual continues to be an asylum seeker for the purpose of asylum support until the end of the prescribed period. That period is 28 calendar days from when an individual is notified of a decision to accept their asylum claim and grant them leave.

Let me tackle directly the hon. Gentleman’s challenge about extending the prescribed period to 56 days. There are no current plans to do that, but I hope to reassure him in my next few sentences about what is happening, some of which he has already touched on. Although 28 days is the legislative period, in practice, support extends beyond that time. Measures are in place to ensure that an individual granted asylum can remain on asylum support and in accommodation, so individuals already have longer than 28 days.

I welcome the hon. Gentleman’s comments about the point at which the 28 days begin. He is right that the process was temporarily amended in August to use the date of service, in line with secondary legislation. As he knows, a decision was made to pause that in September, and consideration of that practice is ongoing. I take his points on board and I will consider them alongside that.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned homelessness and move-on support. Of course, the Home Office is aware of the potential challenges that newly recognised refugees can face. He was right to highlight homelessness, as was the hon. Member for Manchester, Gorton. There is support available. For example, move-on support is granted through Migrant Help and its partner organisations. That includes providing advice on accessing the labour market—I will come back to the point from the hon. Member for Westmorland and Lonsdale about accessing the labour market more widely—and applying for universal credit, as well as signposting to local authorities for assistance with housing.

On housing, it is recognised that the number of individuals moving on from asylum support is placing pressure on local authorities, as was implicit in the hon. Gentleman’s speech. He noted that the clearance of the backlog may have something to do with that, but it is right that the Home Office and the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities are working closely together on that and regularly engaging with local authorities to ensure that they are supported. Following the notification of an asylum decision being made, we expect accommodation providers to notify local authorities within two working days, and we are working with providers to ensure that that practice is applied consistently across all areas.