Chancellor Jeremy Hunt doesn’t rule out children being detained under new illegal migration laws but promises ‘special arrangements’ for young asylum seekers amid Tory backlash
- Jeremy Hunt doesn’t rule out children being detained under Government plans
- There is already a Tory backlash amid claims new laws will reverse a ban
Jeremy Hunt today didn’t rule out children being detained under the Government’s plans to tackle the Channel migrant crisis.
The Chancellor said ‘special arrangements’ would be made for young asylum seekers who enter Britain under new measures unveiled this week.
But Mr Hunt did not dismiss claims that a near decade-long ban on detaining children will be reversed under the fresh approach.
Suggestions that the new Illegal Migration Bill will allow the detention of families with children has already caused a Tory backlash and raised the prospect of a House of Commons rebellion among Conservative MPs.
Tory former justice secretary Sir Robert Buckland admitted it was a matter of ‘great concern’, while ex-home secretary Priti Patel is reported to be considering a potentially explosive intervention over the issue.
There have been suggestions that the new Illegal Migration Bill – drafted to tackle the Channel migrant crisis – will allow the detention of families with children
The Chancellor said ‘special arrangements’ would be made for young asylum seekers who enter Britain under new measures unveiled this week
But Jeremy Hunt did not dismiss claims that a near decade-long ban on detaining children will be reversed under the fresh approach.
The Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government committed to ending child immigration detention and legislation introduced in 2014 restricted the use of detention for unaccompanied children and families with children.
But it has been reported that the Illegal Migration Bill, due to have its second reading in the House of Commons tomorrow, will effectively reverse those measures.
Mr Hunt was quizzed on the BBC’s Sunday With Laura Kuenssberg programme about whether children might be detained under the new plans for asylum seekers, and if a ban on children being detained still stood.
‘We are making special arrangements for children as the Home Secretary (Suella Braverman) outlined,’ he said.
‘Public consent for legal migration depends on dealing with the unfairness of illegal migration and that is why it is so important that we tackle this issue head-on.’
Asked again if he is ruling out a return to detaining children, the Chancellor said: ‘The Home Secretary has made clear that we are going to treat children differently under these arrangements and I think you’ll have to talk to her about precisely how that happens.’
Sir Robert, who was justice secretary in Boris Johnson’s government, told the Sunday Times any move to water down the Tories’ previous commitment to ending the detention of children in immigration centres ‘would be of great concern’.
‘While I understand the Government’s desire to deter as many illegal migrants from making the dangerous journey to the UK, anything which changes the existing protections for children and families requires the closest scrutiny,’ he said.
He also told GB News today: ‘It’s been our policy as a Government not to treat children that inhumane way.
‘Now, I absolutely understand that there’s a concern that somehow children and women are being used as a sort of “way in” for unscrupulous people to come into this country.
‘But I think we’ve really got to think carefully before using detention centres or places of incarceration for children.
‘I just don’t think that’s right. And I hope that in the course of the debate, we can look at that and refine the approach.’
Baroness Morgan of Cotes, a Tory former education secretary, said: ‘It’s clear that the current asylum system isn’t working properly.
‘Changes have to be made but I hope the Government will clarify with urgency what the new proposals mean for children seeking refuge from some terrible situations.’
A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The Illegal Migration Bill will change the law so that people who come to the UK illegally can be detained and then swiftly returned to a safe third country or their home country.
‘Unaccompanied children will only be removed in very limited circumstances ahead of them reaching adulthood and then only to a safe country, such as for the purposes of family reunion or to their country of origin. All decisions will be made on a case-by-case basis.’