Labour Wants Local Authorities To Have A Say On Asylum Seeker Accommodation
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper has previously accused the Conservatives of chasing headlines instead of “setting out serious solutions” (Alamy)
The Labour Party is tabling an amendment to the government’s Illegal Migration Bill that would put a duty of the home secretary to consult with local authorities when choosing areas for asylum seeker accommodation.
The Bill seeks to curtail the rights of asylum seekers if they did not arrive in the UK via a safe or legal route, with new arrivals removed to a ‘third’ country and banned from ever returning or claiming citizenship.
It also aims to limit the ability of asylum seekers attempting to prevent deportation by relying on human rights laws.
The government is publishing its own amendments to further toughen up the controversial Illegal Migration Bill, which is due to be debated in the Commons next week.
These amendments will give the home secretary more powers to ignore the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights, and tighten the rules around when deportations can be blocked by UK courts.
Meanwhile, Labour is seeking to change the bill to include a requirement for the Home Office to consult with relevant local authorities when making arrangements for asylum seeker accommodation.
The government is considering new laws to give itself powers to bypass normal planning permission for asylum accommodation, and take its own decisions on the use of government-owned land instead of local authorities.
Various plans for temporary accommodation have been opposed by local MPs, local authorities and activists.
Labour's amendment specifies that this duty to consult would also apply to temporary accommodation including hotels, military sites and sea vessels.
Plans to house 500 asylum seekers on a barge off the Dorset coast have been confirmed, with people to be moved on to the vessel in “the coming months”.
The government says the barge will provide “basic and functional” accommodation to adult male asylum seekers while their claims are processed, but concerns have been raised by medical activists that asylum seekers may experience even further barriers to accessing healthcare as a result of the conditions and lack of access to technology.
Shadow Home Secretary Yvette Cooper told PoliticsHome: “The Tories chaotic failures on asylum and Channel crossings are pushing up the number of people in hotels and asylum accommodation rather than bringing numbers down.
"That’s why they are flailing around opening even more hotels, as well as bases and barges, and trying to bypass local councils and communities. That’s deeply damaging.
"That’s why Labour's amendments will make it a legal requirement to consult local councils about any asylum accommodation, and will set up a new fast track system to take decisions, clear the backlog and end hotel use.
"Only Labour has a plan to sort out the asylum chaos and stop small boat crossings that are undermining border security and putting lives at risk."
Labour is also tabling an amendment that requires the secretary of state to establish a process to fast-track asylum claims from specified countries within 60 days of the Illegal Migration Act coming into force.
The final Commons stages of the Bill will begin next week with the new amendments to be debated in the chamber.
Other amendments are likely to be tabled by Conservative MPs, including by the Chair of the Home Affairs Select Committee Tim Loughton, who has called for a pilot scheme for safe and legal routes for refugees to enter the UK. Amendments might also include further protections for unaccompanied child refugees.
As it progresses to the Lords, the Bill is likely to be met with further opposition and might take weeks to pass.
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