Immigration Bill: Bishop of Norwich backs amendment on support for unaccompanied young people seeking asylum

On the 3rd February 2016 the House of Lords considered the Government’s Immigration Bill in committee. The Bishop of Norwich, Rt Revd Graham James, spoke in support of an amendment from Lord Alton of Liverpool proposing the extension of Local Authority support for young people and care leavers seeking asylum.  The Bishop spoke about the danger of young people disappearing, without necessary support.  The amendment was withdrawn after debate.

The Lord Bishop of Norwich: My Lords, I do not want to detain the Committee because we have heard the significance of these amendments, to some of which I have added my name. I want to follow what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has just said because we all know that the consequence of not providing for these young people when they leave the care system is serious because they are going to remain in this country.

Given that these young people are likely to remain here and to go under the radar, I simply ask the Minister to comment on the figures in relation to removal directions served on former unaccompanied young people in 2014. As I understand it, 245 removal directions were served on former asylum-seeking unaccompanied young people, but only 15—less than half of 1%—were forcibly removed. What I cannot see is how any of the proposed legislation is going to do anything other than make that situation worse and make those young people more destitute. The Children’s Society has plenty of evidence of those young people ending up sleeping on buses and selling the currency of their bodies to have somewhere to stay. I cannot think that that is the sort of response that we in this House want or the sort of society we want to create.

I will not go through the list of cases that the Children’s Society has given me of people who have now reached the age of majority and are receiving some support in education and training, putting themselves in a position where they can make a contribution to our society. But if we implement a system whereby they do not get support after the age of 18, as others do, we are storing up enormous trouble for ourselves and huge financial as well as emotional costs.

(all speeches made during the debate on the amendments can be seen at Parliament.UK)