31 Jan 2008 10:59 AM
A compassionate Immigration system for children

HOME OFFICE News Release (014/2008) issued by The Government News Network on 31 January 2008

A host of new measures will ensure that children in the immigration system are dealt with humanely and compassionately, Immigration Minister Liam Byrne announced today.

Earlier this month the Minister outlined plans for the biggest ever shake-up of Britain's border security system. Today he pledges that these sweeping changes will be complemented by new measures to safeguard children within the immigration system.

To guarantee fair treatment, the Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) is consulting on a new Code of Practice for its staff, and consulting on lifting the UK reservation on the UN convention on the Rights of the Child.

Alongside this Code, the Government has vowed to handle asylum claims by unaccompanied children swiftly and compassionately. "Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children", released today, commits the BIA to deliver:

* better procedures for identifying and supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking children who are the victims of trafficking;

* specialist local authorities to ensure that unaccompanied asylum seeking children receive only the services they need;

* new procedures to assess age in order to ensure children and adults are not accommodated together; and

* speedier decisions on immigration status to ensure integration into the UK or fast return to a safe country of origin.

Immigration Minister Liam Byrne said:

"Two weeks ago I set out a plan for the biggest ever shake up of Britain's border security system. I said that in the future we needed more compassionate treatment for children and the victims of trafficking. That's why we're announcing new measures to take special care of children today.

"The Home Secretary's recent commitment to tackle child trafficking head-on means that we intend to ratify the Council of Europe Convention against trafficking by the end of the year.

"I am hopeful too that we can avoid detaining children who are awaiting removal in most cases and today can announce that we will be piloting alternatives to detention.

"All of this comes with the new code of practice to make sure BIA staff meet or exceed our new legal obligation to keep children safe from harm."

Children's Minister Kevin Brennan said:

"Child trafficking is criminal and shocking and it is vital that these vulnerable children are protected.

"This statutory guidance for practitioners means that professionals working with children will be able to identify their needs early on and concentrate on helping them integrate into the community and rebuild their childhood. Our Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCB) already play a pivotal role in keeping children safe from harm, and this guidance is a big step in the right direction to further safeguarding children.

"The Government have also made it easier for local authorities, from April this year, to support Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children by pulling together several pots of funding into one single source."

Notes to Editors

1. The consultation, "Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum Seeking Children", was published on 1 March 2007. The summary of responses and the Government's response are available at http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/consultations/closedconsultations/uasc/betteroutcomes.pdf

2. The draft Code of Practise consultation opens today and responses can be submitted until 24 April. http://www.bia.homeoffice.gov.uk/sitecontent/documents/aboutus/consultations/keepingchildrensafe/uasc_codeofpractice.pdf

3. On 14 January, The Home Secretary announced her intention to ratify the Council of Europe Convention against Trafficking by the end of the year. At the same time it was announced that the Home Office would be reviewing its immigration reservations to the United Nations Commission for the Rights of the Child. Home Office Press Notice no. 007/2008.

4. At the beginning of the year, the Immigration Minister, Liam Byrne, has set out a ten point delivery plan for 2008:

* within 15 days to check fingerprints before a visa is issued anywhere in the world;

* within 60 days to introduce on the spot fines for employers who don't make the right right-to-work checks;

* within 80 days to begin the introduction of a new points system for managing migration;

* within 100 days to introduce a single border force and police-like powers for frontline staff;

* within 180 days to confirm the number of foreign national prisoners deported in 2008 will exceed 2007;

* within 200 days to activate powers to automatically deport foreign national prisoners;
* within 300 days to expand detention capacity;

* within 330 days to begin issuing compulsory ID cards for those foreign nationals who want to stay;