On 18th March 2019 the House of Lords debated a Motion to Approve the Immigration, Nationality and Asylum (EU Exit) Regulations 2019. The Bishop of Durham, Rt Revd Paul Butler, spoke in the debate:
The Lord Bishop of Durham: My Lords, it is striking how small a part asylum and resettlement have played in the conversation about a post-Brexit immigration system. Assuming—and praying—that we do not leave without a deal, I hope that discussion of these vital areas will not be limited to the margins of an already limited engagement with the immigration White Paper and the SIs. I have a series of questions for the Minister.
It might just be me, but I often struggle to see evidence of the Home Office applying the family test in SIs and other areas. Can the Minister assure me that the family test has been applied to these SIs?
There is potentially a bit of a catch for people who have made an asylum application in an EU member state prior to 29 March, and who might have chosen to use the Dublin process for the purpose of family reunion. For such people, that might fall out if we leave on 29 March. Can the regulations be amended to ensure that, if they have made an application before 29 March, they will be able to use the Dublin process afterwards?
I endorse the questions of the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, and shall add a couple more. Of the 1,215 people reunited in the UK under the Dublin system in 2018, more than 800 arrived under Article 9, which allows people who claim asylum in another Dublin member state to join a relative in the UK who has been granted international protection.
What assessment has the Minister made of how many of those people may have been eligible to be reunited under Part 11 of the UK’s Immigration Rules? Article 9 also allows people in other EU member states to join relatives in the UK who have been granted refugee status. It is concerning that people in these circumstances have had to travel to Europe to reunite, rather than being able to apply for refugee family reunion under the UK’s own Immigration Rules. What plans does the Minister have to improve access to refugee family reunion under Part 11 of the Immigration Rules, including by expanding eligibility and reducing the costs that families face?
I fully accept that we have to withdraw from the Dublin arrangements, but it is about protecting people, as the Government have promised, into the future. Like the noble Baroness, Lady Lister, I am grateful to the British Red Cross for its advice on this.
Baroness Ludford (LD): My Lords, the right reverend Prelate makes a good point about the continuity of claims that have already commenced. If memory serves, the law enforcement regulations we were discussing earlier make provision for the continuation of cases that have already started. I too am interested in the answer to that question…
The Minister of State, Home Office (Baroness Williams of Trafford) (Con)…The noble Baroness, Lady Lister, talked about family reunification without Dublin, as did the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Durham. We strongly support the principle of family unity, and there are several routes by which families can be reunited safely. The UK’s family reunion policy is generous, and we continue to reunite refugees with their immediate family, including by granting over 26,000 family reunion visas over the last five years. We are considering the options to ensure effective co-operation on family reunification of asylum seekers after exit. Deal or no deal, Dublin requests relating to family reunification still pending resolution will continue to be considered under the existing provisions, and, as I said, this would apply to any take-charge requests that we received before exit day…