Leading Conservatives in the UK condemn ‘sickening’ plans to detain unaccompanied youngsters, reversing previous legislation.
UK’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak‘s strategy to reduce small boat crossings will effectively repeal David Cameron’s restriction on child detention and pave the way for its extension, The Observer reported.
With a potential Tory rebellion forming over the measures, it has been revealed that the Illegal Migration Bill will allow the detention of families with children and even the repatriation of unaccompanied youngsters if their country of origin is deemed secure.
Priti Patel, the former Home Secretary, is planning a potentially explosive intervention in the Commons on Monday regarding the bill. Patel, who was a hardliner on immigration while in charge of the Home Office, is one of several Tory MPs who are understood to have major misgivings about the bill and are seeking reassurances or modifications this weekend.
Numerous prominent Conservatives are particularly concerned about changes to how children would be treated upon arrival in the UK, as well as the new bill’s potential violation of international law. Former ministers said, as quoted by The Observer, that changes to children’s rules “made me sick simply to mention” and would have to be changed.
“God knows what happens around safeguarding, and access to medical treatment,” the former Minister said.
“Could [children] be removed from the country without parental or family consent? The mind boggles. I think these concerns will start to come out in the coming days and weeks,” the former Minister stressed.
The resumption of large-scale incarceration of children and families signals a U-turn on a coalition government strategy to halt child detention, which was signed into law in 2014 by Theresa May as Home Secretary. In 2009, 1,119 youngsters were detained. The policy change meant that only 100 did so by 2021.
Some lawmakers denounced the measures as “shocking” last night, while efforts to amend the bill to safeguard youngsters from imprisonment were already underway. The change in how youngsters are treated is certain to spark controversy.
Lord Dubs, the Labour peer who has led parliamentary campaigns to help unaccompanied children head to the UK, said, “It’s shocking that children are going to be subjected to pretty well the same stringent proposals. They will not be able to claim asylum and then be removed. I think it is a shocking departure from a little safeguard that’s built into the system earlier.”
Meanwhile, the Chief executive at Safe Passage International, stated, “Under this bill refugee children, including those who have been torn apart from their family during the chaos of fleeing war or persecution, will also be denied protection here – trashing our reputation not only on refugee rights but on children’s rights as well.”
There are also concerns that the initiatives pose major public health risks. Sunak believes the bill is legal under international law, but human rights activists have called it “barbaric, illegal, and unworkable.” The UN refugee agency, on its part, accused the UK of “extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection.”
This comes shortly after the UN refugee agency urged for a rather “more humane” solution as it warned that the UK draft law banning migrants entering illegally on small boats amounts to an asylum ban.