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Wednesday, 12 June, 2002, 17:33 GMT 18:33 UK
'Tough' asylum regime outlined
Illegal immigrants near the Sangatte camp
Councils will have to report suspected illegal immigrants
Asylum seekers who refuse to take up free travel to the country where they acquired refugee status will have all support for them withdrawn, Home Office minister of state Beverley Hughes has told MPs.

But local authorities would be allowed to offer short term accommodation to their children, the House of Commons heard.


If the family does not take up the offer of travel or fails to travel, all support will be withdrawn

Beverley Hughes
Ms Hughes said the tough measures proposed in the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Bill were designed to ease the pressure on local authorities.

The minister insisted that government had to "grasp the mettle" of perverse incentives in the current arrangements.

These enabled people to claim support from local authorities even though their status excluded them from other sources of support.

One way trip

During report stage debate on the bill, Ms Hughes stressed: "Should local authorities' funds appropriately be used to support people who have established refugee status elsewhere or continue to support those whose claim here has failed...?

"We have concluded that the answers to those questions is 'no'."

She argued: "UK taxpayers should not subsidise people who have tenuous links to the UK.

David Blunkett, Home Secretary
Blunkett said there would be experiments with smaller centres
"We are therefore introducing these measures to ease the pressure being brought to bear on local authorities to clarify their legal position and... provide those individuals and their families with the means to return to their home country or country where they acquired refugee status.

"For those who have citizenship or refugee status in other EU states, short term accommodation may be provided to children as well as a one way journey to their home country.

"If the family does not take up the offer of travel or fails to travel, all support will be withdrawn...

"Local authorities will only be able to provide support to children alone."

Report illegal immigrants

Ms Hughes accepted demands that powers to remove financial assistance should be debated further before being brought into force.

But she said the measures would ensure that children or other vulnerable persons continued to receive appropriate care while enabling families to stay together.

The proposals would make it an offence for a person to accept an offer of short term accommodation and or a journey home and then return to the UK to claim those benefits again.

To stop asylum seekers going from one local authority to another, it would also be an offence for a person to fail to mention any previous request for support.

Oliver Letwin, shadow home secretary
Letwin wants asylum seekers in centres for 10 weeks at most
Local authorities would be under obligation to report suspected illegal immigrants to the home secretary.

But Simon Hughes, for the Liberal Democrats, said people could be prevented from getting financial support if they went to live with friends and relatives, even though this would save a "huge amount" on accommodation costs for the state.

The plans were outlined as Tory peer Lord Taylor of Warwick compared new asylum centres with concentration camps and MPs criticised ministers for restricting debating time on the bill.

On Tuesday Home Secretary David Blunkett dodged a potential rebellion by more than 30 Labour MPs over proposals to segregating asylum seeker children from mainstream schools.

A strict timetable meant the rebel MPs moves to change the bill could not be debated or voted on despite protests from Tories and Liberal Democrats.

Mr Blunkett did offer a concession which allows asylum seeker children to be educated in normal schools after six months at an accommodation centre.

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 ON THIS STORY
Conservative peer Lord Taylor of Warwick
"The answer to speeding up the system is not to build these camps"

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11 Jun 02 | UK Politics
11 Jun 02 | UK Education
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