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Asylum Seekers: Support

Volume 725: debated on Monday 19 December 2022

Appropriate support is provided to asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute while applications are outstanding. Asylum seekers have access to the NHS, and children in family units to full-time education. They can obtain further assistance via the Migrant Help support line.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and British Red Cross have highlighted how 13,000 individuals have been trafficked into modern slavery, and the fact that they are not in regular employment being a risk. As a result, will the Minister ensure that local authorities have the funds to put on a full programme for asylum seekers while they are waiting, but also that there are pilot schemes so that those people can have access to the labour market?

The hon. Lady and I have met to discuss this issue, and I am grateful to her for her thoughts and for the good work that has been done in York. We do not agree that those awaiting asylum decisions should have access to the labour market. We think that that could be a further pull factor to the UK. However, there are other ways in which asylum seekers can make a positive contribution to society, for example, through volunteering, and we want to work with local authorities and other stakeholders to see whether we can pursue those.

No one would deny that France is a safe country, so should not those genuinely fleeing persecution be claiming asylum in France, rather than paying people traffickers to bring them across the channel in small boats in dangerous circumstances?

As ever, my right hon. Friend is absolutely right. Those claiming asylum should do so in the first safe country they pass through, and France is demonstrably a safe country. The system that my right hon. and learned Friend the Home Secretary and I want to build is one whereby those who come here illegally have no route to a life in the UK and are taken for their claims to be heard in third countries such as Rwanda, and we focus our resources as a country on targeted resettlement schemes and safe routes, like those that we have done so well in recent years in respect of Ukraine, Afghanistan and Syria.