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Asylum Seekers: Students

Volume 791: debated on Wednesday 9 May 2018


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government how many young asylum seekers have been required to cease studying as a condition of immigration bail, following the recent introduction of new provisions; and whether that condition will be applied to all asylum seekers.

My Lords, we have management information figures but these are not robust. I assure noble Lords that the new immigration bail provisions are not designed to be used to prevent children and asylum seekers studying. The Home Office is proactively looking to identify cases where this has been applied inappropriately, and will issue a new bail notice to the individual.

My Lords, I am grateful for that Answer. The Minister will know it is widely believed that there is a blanket ban at present on asylum seekers accessing education, although an assurance was given during the passage of the legislation that it would be used merely to specify where education was accessed. In any event, what is the objective of applying this condition? Is a ban on study necessary? What does it achieve?

My Lords, I must stress that there is not a blanket ban and it is not mandatory to impose a ban on studying. The cohorts of people who might be prohibited from studying are adult immigration offenders—for example, overstayers who are not asylum seekers; adults whose appeal rights have been exhausted, other than care leavers receiving local authority support; adults being deported; foreign criminals who have not made an asylum claim; and all adults for whom a deportation order is signed and enforceable.

I do not know whether the Minister can help with a historic problem, which I hope has improved. I was listening just a year and half ago to care leavers who had been unaccompanied asylum-seeking children; the majority of them were not able to access education, and they were turning to the black economy to continue living here. If the system was not effective in removing them, they were unable to access proper care-leaving services, so they were falling through the cracks. How is that being addressed now?

My Lords, I stress to the noble Earl that anyone under the age of 18 in the UK has a right to study. That covers asylum-seeking children and children who are dependants of migrant workers. The following people can also study: care leavers, to whom the noble Earl alluded, former unaccompanied asylum-seeking children without standing claims, appeals or ongoing litigation concerning their asylum application, and any adult asylum-seekers without standing claims and/or appeals.

My Lords, what the Minister says does not quite seem to accord quite with some of the tales that have been coming out. There have been some really sad and shameful stories of young people who have been totally affected by this ban on education. What, if any, inquiries are made of the individual before deciding to impose this condition on them?

Because of the nature of the Question of the noble Baroness, Lady Hamwee, I can say that there may be cases that have fallen foul of a study restriction. As I said, it is not mandatory to impose a restriction on study, and it should be imposed only where appropriate. We are proactively looking at cases that might have been affected and are issuing new immigration bail notices.

My Lords, I am not clear about the thought process involved in this. There may be a case to argue in individual cases, but what is it? What is the thought process that makes someone decide that Bill Smith should stop studying?

My Lords, I outlined to the noble Baroness earlier who might be in the cohort, and who might have to stop studying, but it is up to the First-tier Tribunal to impose the immigration bail conditions on an individual. It is certainly not mandatory to impose a condition against study.

Can the Minister tell us how many young people caught up in the backwash of the Windrush scandal have been denied student loans because of uncertainty about their residency position in this country?

I cannot give the noble Lord that information. As I have said to the House previously, the Home Office is proactively looking at anyone of the Windrush generation who might have been inadvertently caught up in the issue we have been talking about over the last few weeks. I am sure that those figures will ultimately come to light, but I do not have them here today.

My Lords, the Minister’s contribution today is obviously different from some of the cases we all know about of who might have been caught up in this restriction. What is the Government’s timescale to sort out this issue?

As I said earlier, officials are proactively looking at these cases that might inadvertently have been caught out where the imposition of study bans have happened as a result of immigration bail. The answer is that it is immediate and I hope that this issue will be sorted out very quickly. In addition, new guidance has also been issued.

When the Minister was replying to the noble Lord, Lord Christopher, she referred to cohorts of students. Can she tell us how that word creeps into the answer, as it implies that there is some group of students for whom there is a collective exclusion?

My Lords, the noble Lord might like to check Hansard. I was referring not to cohorts of students but cohorts of individuals who might be prohibited from studying.

When an immigrant child reaches the age of 18, they lose their protected status. What efforts are there to make sure that every young person reaching that age is fully aware of their legal obligations and their opportunities? Many of them are on the verge of going to university but could be deported. What are we doing to make sure that does not happen?

My Lords, an immigrant child could fall into several categories. I am sure, given his history, that the noble Lord is talking about an asylum-seeking child. Any asylum-seeking child coming up to the age of 18 will have their case looked at again.