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Government Eases Stance On Detaining Children In Illegal Migration Bill

The Government compromised on the Illegal Migration Bill which was one of its flagship policies (Alamy)

2 min read

Immigration minister Robert Jenrick has confirmed the Government would make some concessions on child refugees and safe routes in its flagship Illegal Migration Bill, following pressure from backbench MPs.

Jenrick told the Commons that government would accept Conservative MP Tim Loughton’s proposed amendment to the bill, which sought to restrict powers to remove unaccompanied children from the country. He said his primary concern was the welfare of children in the UK and abroad.

Loughton is now not expected to push his amendment, which had garnered support from a number of fellow Tory MPs. 

“We need to ensure the UK does not become a destination which is specifically targeted by people smugglers specialising in children and families,” Jenrick told MPs in a statement on Wednesday.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Home Secretary Suella Braverman have made it a priority to reduce illegal migration into the UK. The Conservative Party adopted a pledge at the start of the year to “stop the boats” and reduce illegal migration across the Channel.

The proposed legislation, which will be debated in the House of Commons today, has faced criticism from the Labour Party and One Nation Tory MPs. Loughton led a rebellion with the support of Labour which tried to get the government to concede on providing “safe and legal” routes for refugees to seek asylum. Prior to Jenrick’s statement in the Commons this afternoon, a senior Labour Party MP told PoliticsHome Loughton’s amendment was likely to gain cross party support.

In response to the backlash, Government put forward amendments 134 and 136 to allay any concern it planned to detain unaccompanied children indefinitely. These modifications will only allow the Home Secretary the ability to intern children for a limited time period only. However, the amendments do not specify how long this should be. 

Former Cabinet Minister Damian Green praised the government for changing its position and adopting the amendment.

“I’m delighted with the move by the Government. We need to remember our humanitarian obligations as we strengthen our border controls,” he told PoliticsHome.

Conservative MP and former Minister Stephen Hammond, who backed Loughton's original amendment, told PoliticsHome he was "pleased" the Government revised its Illegal Migration Bill.

"I am pleased the Government has listened to colleagues and myself. We sought change and safeguards on the safe and legal routes, and how we treat children. We have now received ministerial promises and acceptance of our amendments," he told PoliticsHome

A senior Conservative MP told PoliticsHome yesterday that there was growing pressure for the Government to “accommodate” a change to the Bill because the legislation needs to make sure there are safe routes for asylum seekers.

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