A week on from the Illegal Migration Bill entering Report Stage in Parliament, I remain deeply worried about the rapid pace at which it is progressing – and the lack of movement on crucial elements of children’s rights.
I have a statutory duty, as set out in the Children Act 2004, to promote and protect the rights of all children, with particular regard to children living away from home or receiving social care services. Despite that, I was not consulted on any elements of the Bill before its introduction, nor have I been provided reassurance that this is forthcoming.
I was heartened to hear the representations by members in the House of Commons last Wednesday referencing my concerns about the Bill’s impact on children: about their detention, powers to remove them from the country, about accommodation run by the Home Office, exemptions for children who are victims of trafficking or slavery, and about the process of age assurance.
In particular I was grateful to the Rt Hon Theresa May MP who specifically referenced the work of my advice and assistance team, Help at Hand, who are providing advocacy and support to so many children who have arrived in the UK seeking sanctuary from dangers and traumas in their home countries – children who, under this Bill, would be left without proper support or care and be open to even greater risk of exploitation.
In my latest briefing for MPs and Lords, published ahead of the Bill’s progression to Report Stage, I set out in detail the assurance I still seek from the Home Office – including via a data request using my statutory powers regarding children aged 17 or under who have been accommodated by the Home Office for at least one night since July 2021. The response deadline was 17th April, and I have yet to receive a response to this request, so I have written again to the Home Secretary to set out my concerns that the data is not being systemically recorded.
You can read my latest public statement on the Illegal Migration Bill via the link below.