Children’s commissioner for England expresses ‘deep concern’ over illegal migration bill

Rachel de Souza asks Suella Braverman for clarity on how unaccompanied children will be treated under proposals

The children’s commissioner for England has expressed her “deep concern” about how unaccompanied children will be treated in the UK under the government’s heavily criticised illegal migration bill.

Rachel de Souza attempted to seek an urgent meeting with Suella Braverman before the home secretary outlined the proposals on Monday and succeeded in pushing the legislation through the Commons.

De Souza has claimed the proposals are “opaque” on how children’s rights will be affected and raise questions about where the vulnerable children “in need of care and protection” will be housed and whether they will have access to services while they are awaiting removal from the UK.

In the Commons, Braverman told MPs that the duty to remove “will not be applied to detain and remove unaccompanied asylum-seeking children”.

“Consistent with current policy, only in limited circumstances, such as for the purposes of family reunion, we will remove unaccompanied asylum-seeking children from the UK.

“Otherwise they will be provided with the necessary support in the UK until they reach 18. With respect to the removal of families and pregnant women, it bears repeating that the overwhelming majority of illegal arrivals are adult men under the age of 40. Removing them will be our primary focus.”

But in a letter to the home secretary, the children’s commissioner sought to clarify “in what circumstances would the power to remove unaccompanied asylum-seeking children be used” and “how decisions will be made about which children will be housed in Home Office-run accommodation while awaiting transfer versus being directly transferred to local authority care”.

De Souza said it was “vital” that all children had access to an independent child trafficking guardian while they were housed in temporary hotel accommodation or a detention centre if they had been identified as a victim of trafficking.

De Souza’s move comes after Theresa May criticised Braverman’s plan, warning that “anybody who thinks that this bill will deal with the issue of illegal migration once and for all is wrong”.

The former prime minister said: “But what should be clear from this is whenever you close a route, the migrants and the people-smugglers find another way, and anybody who thinks that this bill will deal with the issue of illegal migration once and for all is wrong.”

Conservative former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland also criticised the plans, and expressed “great concern” at the prospect of detaining children.


Aletha Adu Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Hundreds gather in Parliament Square to protest over illegal migration bill
Crowd demonstrate in Westminster as MPs debate government’s controversial immigration reforms

Safi Bugel

13, Mar, 2023 @11:41 PM

Article image
Ministers expected to toughen illegal migration bill to placate Tory rebels
Amendments could remove safeguards as Home Office minister says government is ‘in listening mode’

Peter Walker Political correspondent

27, Mar, 2023 @10:16 AM

Article image
Protests against illegal migration bill held in London, Glasgow and Cardiff
Thousands attended march through capital to condemn home secretary’s legislation, say organisers

Tom Ambrose and agency

18, Mar, 2023 @4:55 PM

Article image
MPs reject amendments to illegal migration bill – as it happened
Votes come as Labour says people will continue to risk lives to cross Channel under new bill

Nadeem Badshah (now) and Andrew Sparrow (earlier)

27, Mar, 2023 @10:14 PM

Article image
Child sexual abuse compensation scheme to be set up in England
Move comes after inquiry found children had faced ‘limitless’ cruelty with complicity of institutions

Sally Weale Education correspondent

22, May, 2023 @7:04 PM

Article image
Charities say over unaccompanied asylum seeker children in UK
Complaints come as local authorities given five working days instead of 10 to move unaccompanied children into care

Rajeev Syal and Diane Taylor

24, Aug, 2022 @5:08 PM

Article image
Police taking photos and fingerprints of lone children arriving in UK
FoI data reveals thousands of children including two-year-old targeted by immigration enforcement operation

Diane Taylor

03, Oct, 2022 @1:28 PM

Article image
‘A revenge plan’: refugees and Dover residents react to illegal migration bill
Home secretary’s latest plan to curb small boats crossings across the Channel has been met with scepticism

Diane Taylor

07, Mar, 2023 @6:01 PM

Article image
What are the legal obstacles faced by the UK’s illegal migration bill?
Suella Braverman has denied the government is breaking the law but experts say it faces many challenges

Ben Quinn

08, Mar, 2023 @6:02 PM

Article image
Suella Braverman: home secretary set to take even harder line on migration
Braverman has pitched herself to the right of her predecessor – and is expected to move quickly to sideline ECHR

Rajeev Syal Home affairs editor

06, Sep, 2022 @6:32 PM