Statement by Dame Rachel de Souza on the progression of the Government’s Illegal Migration Bill to Report Stage, released Wednesday 26th April:
“I welcome the work by MPs in laying amendments that seek to cement children’s rights within the Illegal Migration Bill, but remain deeply disappointed by the continued lack of clarity by the government over crucial elements. Specifically, I have yet to see an impact assessment demonstrating that children’s rights have been properly and thoroughly considered – especially their right to care and support up to adulthood from the local authority, as set out under the Children Act 1989.
“Children must be able to claim asylum and be exempted from the duty to remove them from the country. The circumstances under which the Home Office would remove children under this Bill remains a significant grey area – this must be clarified on the face of the Bill as a matter of urgency.
“Children must be exempted from the changes to detention rules, whether with their families or unaccompanied. It is not acceptable for them to be treated in the same way as adults.
“Children who are the victims of trafficking or modern slavery must be granted support and protection, able to safely make an asylum claim and be exempted from the power and duty to remove them.
“I am also seeking urgent reassurance that age assessment on children is carried out sensitively and appropriately, by trained professionals. Where age is disputed, they should be treated first and foremost as a vulnerable child, with the care and support they require from the local authority while this is resolved.”