Lords digs in heels over immigration reforms

Defiant peers have dug in their heels by inflicting further defeats against the government’s controversial asylum and immigration reforms.
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The House of Lords is maintaining its stand-off despite the Tory-dominated Commons rejecting previous changes made by the unelected chamber to the flagship Nationality and Borders Bill.

Peers again backed steps aimed at preventing asylum seekers being treated differently based on how they reached the UK, and renewed their demand that applicants be allowed to work if no decision had been taken on their claim after six months.

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The Lords also supported measures to ensure provisions on asylum in the bill comply with the UK’s international commitments to refugees.

Palace of WestminsterPalace of Westminster
Palace of Westminster

The latest government setbacks mean a continuation of the legislative tussle between the two Houses over the bill, known as parliamentary ping-pong, as the end of the parliamentary session looms.

However, the Conservative frontbench did see off attempts to secure further significant changes to the bill, including a fresh bid to strip out a broad provision making it a criminal offence to knowingly arrive in the UK without permission and a move to impose strict conditions on offshoring asylum.

It came amid widespread criticism of the controversial deal to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, as part of the effort to halt unauthorised Channel crossings.

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A Labour proposal to limit the removal of protections from potential victims of modern slavery was also rejected.

Speaking in the Lords, Home Office minister Baroness Williams of Trafford stressed the need for the reforms contained in the bill.

The Tory frontbencher told peers: “The world is facing a crisis of migration. An estimated 80 million people are displaced by conflicts and instability around the world. Others seek to move in search of improved economic opportunities.

“Challenges need solutions, not just complaints about what is proposed.”

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She added: “Managing migration, welcoming and effectively supporting those most in need while protecting borders and closing down the dangerous business of people smuggling is one of the most difficult public policy challenges faced by any government.

“Breaking the business model of the people smugglers and managing the flow of people entering this country is the one of the most humane things we can do.

“The measures in this bill will allow us to save lives and ensure that we can effectively provide the support and care for those who need it most.”

But there was criticism of the measures being taken by the Government, including over the Rwanda policy.

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Green Party peer Baroness Jones of Moulsecoomb said: “The government talks all the time about stopping these trafficking gangs. Our government is becoming a trafficking gang. The government is actually going to take people abroad and leave them there.

“They are taking them to a country that has human rights abuses. It is cruel.”

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