Lord Roberts is fighting to protect child asylum seekers

On Tuesday, the Lord Bishop of Durham, Paul Butler, asked the following question in the House of Lords:

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what assessment they have made of Project 17’s report Not Seen, Not Heard: Children’s experiences of the hostile environment.

Liberal Democrat Lord Roger Roberts responded with a speech fully in support of protecting children seeking asylum in this country, extracts of which are here:

I want a world fit for children to live in, a world where the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is respected in all parts. We talk of so many people who, because of various circumstances, do not receive this care. This could be because of famine, disease, conflict, poverty and so much else. I think the UN’s latest figure was that about 66 million people are in some sort of statelessness. There are nearly 100,000 unaccompanied children in Europe alone. I would love to say that we can resolve all these problems and help every child, but we do not have a magic wand. However, we do have the ability to remove many obstacles and transform the world of thousands of children.

On a worldwide scale, in the last two months, the conflict in Syria has led to 544 deaths, 100 of which were children. In the same area, unregistered migrants in Turkey have been rounded up and many have been returned to areas where death is a great possibility. On the other side of the Atlantic, on the Mexico-United States border, we have pictures of a little girl drowning in her father’s arms and we read of the President’s intention to round up unregistered immigrants.

But would the UK treat its asylum seekers any better? If we distance ourselves from Europe and co-operation with European countries, will things be better? If we give up our co-operation with countries such as Italy, Greece and France, will conditions improve? Will the kids have a better life? How will Brexit improve the condition of unaccompanied children in Europe? How will Brexit affect the work of the churches, especially the Catholic Church, and their pan-European activity to help refugees? There are many other organisations which deserve the most wonderful praise for all the work they are doing. They know no borders, but the UK is now guilty, with the whole attitude of the hostile environment, of digging ditches instead of building bridges. We are doing something that in itself will cause children to suffer.

We must look at the Home Office, and the decisions that create heartache when families are threatened with deportation. Even though I have been promised changes, the latest figure is that over 50% of Home Office decisions are overturned on appeal.

Somehow, we must restore people’s dignity. We can, and it will not cost us a penny. We would benefit, because they would pay taxes and national insurance contributions. Will the Government now please change their attitude? We need a change in immigration regulations, a change that would transform lives. There is so much that we could do. We could remove the threat of deportation on reaching 18 years of age. We could restore legal advice to those who have nowhere else to turn, and at the Home Office, we could avoid these wrong and heart-breaking decisions. A positive outlook and a generosity of spirit could help.

Lord Robert’s full speech can be read here.

* Kirsten Johnson was the PPC for Oxford East in the 2017 General Election. She is a pianist and composer at www.kirstenjohnsonpiano.com.

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This entry was posted in Parliament.


  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '19 - 6:52pm

    Rob Cannon
    “he is naive if he thinks that allowing unaccompanied child migrants into the UK would not result in … children being sent unaccompanied by their parents because the parents … wanted their children to get to a better life”
    NO, have a heart. This was normal policy, Limited Leave to Remain until Age 18.
    Criticised by some as inadequate, but often leading to UK ties under the human rights act.
    The UK was also a signatory to the UN convention on Statelessness, but the Blair-Brown Labour government arranged to change the policy, by secondary legislation, on the basis that it was not included in the Immigration Rules.

  • Richard Underhill: Your comment is directed to me but I’m not sure what the point of it is. You seem to be endorsing the unclear system we have currently in this country with governments making rules by secondary legislation rather than through Parliament and reliance on judicial law-making. That system has led to the public being cynical about the process as well as a huge burden of uncertainty on immigrants.

    We need clear principles and rules and a fair and acceptable process. LibDems should be campaigning for that, not for an even bigger mismash and confusion of policy and rules than we have already.

  • Richard Underhill 11th Jul '19 - 7:34pm

    11th Jul ’19 – 7:23pm
    Just stating facts.

  • “If we welcomed all.those children 80 years ago we can sutely do the same again”

    The Kindertransport of the one year period from November 1938 to September 1939 involved “approximately 10,000 children”. A significant portion of those 10,000 children didn’t remain in the UK but went on to other Commonwealth countries such as Canada and Australia.

    In the year ended 30 June 2018 the UK made 6,068 grants of asylum, alternative forms of protection and resettlement to children (i.e. those under 18 years old). A very similar of grants of asylum, alternative forms of protection and resettlement were made to children in the year ended 30 June 2017. So numbers now are actually quite comparable to a one off event from 80 years ago that actually has zero relevance.

    I’m sorry, but the UK needs to give up the fetishisation of World War II, Nazism, etc. that dominates UK public life. Children are coming out of schools in the UK knowing next to nothing of history apart from WWII, Shakespeare and Queen Elizabeth I.

    It may involve a little more brainwork and analysis to look in wholistic terms at the current immigration system, including the increasingly large number those who have grown up in the UK but are not able to become citizens because of the ridiculous cost and pointlessly complicated rules for acquiring citizenship than bleating about a need to admit more child asylum seekers. It’s embarrassing that the level of intellectual thought in the LibDems is so low that these issues are not grappled with to any degree.

  • Roger Roberts 13th Jul '19 - 8:01am

    “note that Lord Roberts is a Methodist minister. It’s perhaps useful to recall what several LibDem representatives have been saying over the past week about keeping private religious beliefs out of social issues.” Your private religious or other beliefs shape your thinking and actions. I don’t know who these Lib Dems are who try to do the impossible and separate them but happy to discuss possibly at the Bournemouth conference.

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