The Lords amendments would have let child refugees be reunited with their families, and ensure physical proof of the 'right to remain' for EU citizens after Brexit.
Tory MPs have overturned key Lords amendments that would have protected migrant rights after Brexit.
In the Commons on Monday night, the government overturned a swathe of crucial amendments, which would have bolstered protections for child refugees and EU citizens’ family rights after the Brexit transition period ends.
Just four Tories voted to for a maximum 28-day time limit for immigration detention of European nationals, with the Lords amendment defeated by the government.
Another defeated amendment would have offered a legal route to sanctuary in the UK for unaccompanied child refugees. Just six Tories voted for this protection, including David Davis and David Amess. Campaign group Safe Passage said MPs had “voted against refugee family reunion.”
One defeated Lords amendment would have ensured that any child who has the right of free movement removed as a consequence of the bill, and is in the care of a local authority, must be granted indefinite leave to remain. The government said local authorities were already handling the issue. Just two Tories – Tim Loughton and Rehman Chisti – backed the move.
Tory MPs rejected an amendment which would have guaranteed a physical proof confirming EU citizens’ settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme, for those who requested it. Campaigners are worried of flaws in the digital scheme that risk a ‘Windrush’ moment for EU citizens in the UK after Brexit. Currently EU citizens with a right to remain only get a digital confirmation of their settled status. There are around three million EU citizens in the UK. 3million, a group which represents many of them, said EU citizens were being treated as ‘guinea pigs’ for a digital-only system.
Migration campaigner Prof Tanja Bueltmann said: “[The] majority of MPs have rejected the Immigration Bill amendment that would give EU citizens physical proof of status. *BUT* the fight is not over as the Bill now goes back to the Lords. One way or other: your messages to MPs and Peers have made a real difference.”
Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Watch, said: “Thank you to the 264 MPs who voted for a time limit on immigration detention. And to the thousands campaigning to end the grotesque spectacle of indefinite detention. The vote was lost, but only by 64 votes this time. It’s now a matter of when, not if.”
Green MP Caroline Lucas said: “Being an immigrant isn’t a crime, yet you can be locked up indefinitely in a detention centre… Any detention for immigration purposes is wrong – but some limit is better than no limits at all.”
On the government’s rejection of a paper-based confirmation of the ‘right to remain’, Caroline Lucas MP added that the government was “trying to withhold right to physical proof of settled & pre-settled status to those who make a successful application through EU Settlement scheme. Instead they have to rely on government electronic database. I mean, what could possibly go wrong?”
MPs also rejected a Lords amendment which would require the Secretary of State to commission and publish an independent assessment of the impact of ending free movement on the social care sector within six months of the Immigration Act being passed. There are fears that ending free movement will have a detrimental impact on the already-struggling care sector. Not a single Tory voted to keep the Lords amendment.
The Immigration Bill has been condemned more widely for categorising professions such as social care as ‘low skilled’, locking many out of the country through a so-called ‘points based’ system after Brexit.
Commenting on Monday’s votes, Holly Lynch MP, Labour’s Shadow Immigration Minister, said: “Yet again, the Immigration Bill has shown the Tories’ rank hypocrisy towards care workers and frontline NHS staff. They even voted against an impact assessment of the terrible damage their changes will have on our health service. This is not only putting the health of the public at risk, it’s also a shameful insult to the over 180,000 staff working in the NHS, from across the EU.
“Labour is deeply concerned about the impact that this could have on our health service, particularly during the second spike of this virus.”
The bill now returns to the Lords for ‘ping pong’ – a battle between the two houses. However, the government can simply continue to whip MPs against the Lords amendments when the bill next returns to the Commons. In theory the Lords can delay the Bill for a year, but this would remove many protections altogether given the UK is leaving the transition period at the end of the year.
Labour peer Alf Dubs said the Commons votes “will be a test of the humanitarian principles of our MPs.” It looks like they failed the test…
See also: Lords lowdown: A day of resounding defeats for the Government over the Immigration Bill
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