MPs could secure crucial reforms which would provide basic protections for vulnerable people when they vote on the Immigration Bill. Liberty is campaigning for a number of changes which would inject some much-needed compassion into an otherwise divisive and counter-productive piece of legislation.
The House of Commons will consider a series of amendments made to the Bill by Peers earlier this month. The Lords voted in favor of amendments to:
- allow asylum seekers to work if the Home Office fails to determine their claims within six months
- help overseas domestic workers escape modern slavery by allowing them to change employer
- entirely ban the detention of pregnant women in immigration removal centers
- offer sanctuary to 3,000 unaccompanied refugee children in Europe
Asylum seekers awaiting the outcome of their claims can currently only access employment in an extremely limited number of areas after waiting for more than 12 months. Between October and December 2015, 3,600 asylum seekers were still waiting for a decision beyond the Home Office target of six months, living on Government handouts of approximately £5 per day. Allowing asylum seekers to work will enable them to contribute to the economy while providing the opportunity to regain some basic dignity.
Changes to the visa system in 2012 have tied Overseas Domestic Workers to one employer, increasing their vulnerability to exploitation and abuse. Last week the Home Secretary announced plans to limit the detention of pregnant women in immigration removal centres to one week. This concession does not meet the guidelines set by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), nor the recommendation of Stephen Shaw – appointed by the Government to review the Welfare in Detention of Vulnerable Persons – who has called for a total ban on the detention of pregnant women.
Children in need
Figures indicate that in the last 18 months more than 10,000 unaccompanied refugee children have disappeared after registering in Europe. The resettling in the UK of 3,000 unaccompanied child refugees from camps in other European countries – described by British judges as a “living hell” – will protect vulnerable children from a well-documented risk of trafficking and violence.
The Home Office’s recent announcement that the UK will resettle 3,000 children currently living in the Middle East and North Africa does not go beyond separate proposals announced in January this year.