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Asylum Seekers

Volume 403: debated on Monday 10 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he will take to ensure that unaccompanied child asylum seekers are not recruited for (a) sexual exploitation, (b) child labour and (c) other forms of child exploitation. [100315]

I have been asked to reply.Unaccompanied, asylum-seeking children are supported by councils with social services responsibilities, in accordance with the duties laid on them by the Children Act 1989. The Act draws no distinction between such children and other children in need.Children at risk of becoming involved in prostitution and other forms of commercial sexual exploitation are likely to be in need of welfare services and, in many cases, protection under the Children Act 1989.Where there is a risk to the life of a child or a likelihood of serious harm, an agency with statutory child protection powers, such as the police or councils with social services responsibilities, should act quickly to secure the immediate safety of the child. In some cases, it may be necessary to ensure either that the child remains in, or is removed to, a safe place. Under section 20 of the Children Act 1989, a local authority may provide accommodation for any child within its area if it considers that this would safeguard or promote the child's welfare.When a child is identified as at risk of being drawn into prostitution or other commercial sexual exploitation, an assessment of the child's needs will be undertaken in accordance with "Safeguarding Children Involved in Prostitution" (2000) and "Working Together to Safeguard Children" (1999), the Government's child protection guidance, and the "Framework for the Assessment of Children in Need and Their Families" (2000). This assessment should be followed by consideration of how best to address the identified needs of the child and the development of a care plan. The plan could include a range of services.The Children and Young Persons Act 1933 is the primary legislation governing child employment. The legislation is intended to protect children and young people who are being employed. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring compliance with the legislation and any related local byelaws.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department when he expects to agree a target figure for the removal of asylum seekers whose claims are judged to be unfounded. [101148]

I refer my hon. Friend to the answer given by my right hon. Friend the Home Secretary during Home Office oral questions on 24 February 2003, Official Report, column 13. In his reply my right hon. Friend said 'Within weeks of taking over as Home Secretary, I made it clear to the House that the original intention, the technical commitment that had been made in relation to the number of people who could be removed from the country was not feasible. I indicated then that it would be more sensible to have commitment related to a proportion of the intake and that we should switch our energies into preventing entry by strengthening our borders. That is precisely what I have done in the past 20 months'.The Public Service Agreement (PSA) in 2003–04 remains the same as in the PSA 2000 i.e. to enforce the immigration laws more effectively by removing a greater proportion of failed asylum seekers.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department how many asylum seekers known to his Department are in the UK and not in receipt of any kind of benefit; and how many there were at the same date in each of the last three years. [101237]

[holding answer 6 March 2003]: The requested information is not available.Statistics on the number of asylum seekers who are supported by the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) are available on the Home Office's Immigration and Asylum Statistics website:

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department under what circumstances work permits can be issued to asylum seekers who do not have jobs. [101429]

[holding answer 17 February 2003]: None. The United Kingdom's work permit arrangements are employer-led. It is for the employer to apply for a work permit in respect of a specific post.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what plans are in place for Iraqi asylum seekers already in the UK should war be declared on Iraq. [100835]

No decision has yet been taken to launch military action against Iraq. Appropriate arrangements are, however, being put in place to deal with the consequences, should such action be taken. Those arrangements cover the situation of Iraqi asylum seekers already in the United Kingdom.