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Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules

Volume 824: debated on Wednesday 19 October 2022

Motion to Regret

Moved by

That this House regrets that the Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules (HC17), published on 11 May, implements plans to differentiate between refugees depending on how they entered the United Kingdom, does not provide for safe routes, and was not accompanied by an impact assessment on the effect of the changes. 2nd Report from the Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee

My Lords, this debate should really start with a health warning. I say that not because of the time of day but because the official list of changes in the Immigration Rules since 1994 covers more than one large page of closely typed A4. There have been some four to seven changes every year since then. The good news is that the Secretary of State will review the changes made since 2017, produce a report and publish it. We may get some insights into the various zig-zags of policies over the years.

I turn now to the statement of changes of 11 May, referred to in my Motion. The statement implements Section 12 of the principal Act. I regret that it is equally discriminatory, giving successful asylum applicants different rights depending on how they arrived here. Group 1 will be a very small group who arrived here direct from the country they fled or who entered under another visa and then applied for protection—for example, following a change of regime. Group 2 applies to successful asylum applicants who arrived via other countries. They will be the great majority of recognised refugees in future.

Group 1 will get status and leave to stay for five years, after which they can apply to remain permanently. They can sponsor a partner and any children under 18. By contrast, group 2 will gain status and leave to stay for 18 months only. In the last of those 18 months they may apply for an extension, but they will have no automatic right to settlement here. Reunion will be possible only for a spouse or child who cannot safely live elsewhere. Your Lordships will see that there is a huge difference in the treatment of the two groups, although both will have been accepted as bona fide refugees.

The British Red Cross, which I thank for its information, points out that refugees should have support based on their need for protection, not their method of arrival. Short periods of leave to enter will harm integration, making it difficult to learn new skills and gain employment. The Home Office will have to decide on applications to extend the leave to remain. This resource could be better used in reducing the backlog and giving better and quicker first decisions. I note that on 30 June the backlog was more than 99,000 cases.

The restrictions on family sponsorships will harm women and children by removing, for many, an existing safe method of arriving. This in turn may lead to more dependants attempting dangerous journeys to reach their next of kin. Lasting family separation and uncertainty will make it harder for recognised refugees to integrate.

The new regulations on family reunion may be slightly clearer than the old ones. There can be little doubt that they are more restrictive, but the complexities are such that free legal aid would be extremely helpful. At present it is not available. Therefore, much will depend on guidance that we have yet to see and on training for caseworkers and sympathetic implementation.

I come now to the special case of El Salvador, from which in 2017 there were only 38 asylum applications. Then, because of that Government’s harsh repression, the figures rose by stages to reach 658 in the first six months of 2022. Over the last two years, more than half of these applicants received refugee status or humanitarian protection. Why has this safe and legal route now been closed?

The May regulations had no impact assessment. I therefore ask: will one be published, in particular on group 2 refugees? Shorter periods of leave, no automatic route to settlement and restrictions on family reunion are the most important points to be considered.

The success of the two schemes for Ukrainians shows what can be done when there is good will and good co-operation all round. Over 133,000 entry clearance visas were granted for Ukrainians in the year ending last June. I have met a number of those who have benefited, and simply ask that every effort be made to enable people with good qualifications and good English to move into suitable work.

The media have enjoyed a field day over cross-Channel arrivals, but there can be no doubt about the desperation on the part of those facing the risks. We can gain a sense of proportion by comparing the numbers of cross-Channel arrivals with the much greater volume of visas provided for students and workers, and indeed for Ukrainians and British overseas nationals.

I have, I hope, outlined the weaknesses and omissions in these changes to the rules. They provide serious grounds for regret. I trust that subsequent speakers will touch on positive steps that this country could take to prevent loss of life in the channel by closer co-operation with France. If speakers can offer new ways of making the asylum process more humane, I will be delighted. I beg to move the Motion in my name.

My Lords, I begin by saying how sad I am to see the Home Secretary depart from her job today. I had very high regard for her; she brought great legal expertise and determination together. At the same time, I wish Grant Shapps well in his new job as Home Secretary. He was my neighbour in Hertfordshire and is a long-standing friend of mine. I hope that he will pursue with equal diligence the obligations we have and the commitments that we had in our manifesto.

However, there is little point in tidying up the law in the way that we are doing today if the law itself can be turned inside out by the courts. It is pretty clear that that is what has happened time and again in recent years. As a result, we have some 250,000 rejected—failed—asylum seekers in this country who, since 2005, have not been returned to their countries or removed from this country. That is in addition to the 125,000 who have been granted asylum.

The rate of acceptance on first application in this country suddenly doubled after the Windrush scandal, although it is hard to see what the logic of that doubling was. The effect is that we now accept twice as high a proportion of asylum seekers on first application as does France, on the other side of the channel—which is doubtless one reason why people choose to leave France and come here, even by dangerous routes.

Can I just deal with three or four delusions, illusions or mistakes that are very prevalent? The first is that we have no safe routes into this country. The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, made some very sensible points, particularly about the constant change in the regulations we face. We have some 13 different routes and they have exploded in numbers over the last year. We have seen the best part of 300,000 people arrive in this country and be accepted by safe migration routes, including 150,000 from Ukraine. That is a wonderful way we are responding to the problems in Ukraine and almost all of them want to return if and when peace returns to Ukraine. Sadly, that may not be immediate and many of them will put down roots in this country, so will add to our population. They are wonderful people, but we have to take into account the fact that we have a massive increase in our population. There were 120,000 from Hong Kong—again, one understands why—and 20,000 from Afghanistan. All arrived by safe routes. So when President Macron says that the problem with Britain is that is has no safe routes, he is simply out of touch with what is happening in this country.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said that there can be no doubt about the desperation of people who cross the channel in small boats to come to this country. Let us be quite clear: they are coming from France, Germany and Belgium. If they are desperate, what is it about those countries that makes them desperate? They are not coming here from Afghanistan or Iran by boat; they are coming from France and Germany. One of the reasons can be that they have applied or could apply in those countries but know they would be rejected, whereas here our system—having been degraded by constant legal undermining of the rules—makes it much more likely that they will be accepted, even if other countries would not consider them legitimate asylum seekers.

The third point I want to make is that it is an illusion to say we have taken back control of immigration. Over the last year we have given over 1 million visas to people to come and settle in this country. Where are the houses going to be?

I am grateful to the noble Lord for giving way. I was agreeing with him about the numbers who have been given visas—a tiny fraction of whom are asylum seekers. I am not applauding the millions of people who are being given visas; I was agreeing with him that that was happening.

I misinterpreted his “Great”; he was saying that I am great rather than that the number is great. That is good.

It is an extraordinary thing: 1 million people. The problem with immigration is not that immigrants are different from us, but that they are exactly the same. They need homes to live in, medical facilities, schools and everything else. We have not got enough for the existing population, so we ought to be thinking very clearly: is it wise to issue 1 million visas for people to come and live in this country?

Finally, it is constantly asserted that migration is good for economic growth. In the last decade and a half, we have had the highest rate of immigration to this country in our history and the slowest growth in productivity. I rest my case.

My Lords, I want to briefly make some observations about the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, and ask the Minister one or two questions of clarification. Before I do, I point to my interests in the register and make it clear that I am speaking in a personal capacity.

On the observation about safe routes so rightly alluded to by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, in my understanding there is no rule in refugee and asylum status requiring that you are not permitted to come from a safe country. Leaving aside the fact that some countries are deemed to be those from which we are meant to accept refugees according to the UN system, the UN does not seem to implement a declared safe country status. Is the Minister able to clarify this for me, because I have been asking different people that question but never seem to get a clear answer?

I will make a point to the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, on his comments about refugees coming from France and Germany. I have lived in both countries and am familiar with routes of migration into those countries. I also declare my interest of working in the Commonwealth Secretariat, so I am also familiar with people from the 55 other member countries of the Commonwealth coming to, or wishing to come to, the UK. The singular point made by people who come to this country from France and Germany is that they have a system of identification—ID cards or ID documents of one kind or another—that prevents refugees who arrive there disappearing into the ether. We know that in the UK, for example, many people who overstay their visa—in other words, who are not refugees or asylum seekers, but who simply add to the pressures on housing and all the other things the noble Lord talked about—are people who come here by the route of tourism and do not leave the country. This is because, previously, we never counted them out.

The bottom line is that his party and the Liberal Democrats—although I must confess that I probably voted with the latter at the time—vetoed the now Opposition’s attempts in 2006 to bring in ID cards. The fact that we do not have any form of identification in this country to identify whether people are legal, other than using landlords as a means of keeping people out of rented accommodation, is problematic. Perhaps if we addressed the overstays of visas, all the other things—the population, housing and education pressures that the noble Lord talked about—could be dealt with. In France, I was checked numerous times going about my normal business—I did not particularly like it—to see whether I was legal in France or not. Had I not been found to be legal, there would have been a different way of dealing with me, but at least they knew who was there through that system, which we do not have here.

First, we do have a system of numbers in this country. Does the noble Baroness not know about the national insurance number? You cannot get a job without it. Secondly, I was strongly against identity cards—

I apologise; I am still a new boy, really.

In addition, I was not including overstayers in any of the numbers that I mentioned, so they are in addition to all those numbers.

The noble Lord is quite right, but they add to all the pressures he was talking about. Perhaps if we had a more rigorous method of knowing who was actually here, and by what route they came, we would be able to ascertain more clearly—and certainly more fairly—whether they should stay or not.

My final point to the Minister is related to but, I admit, slightly removed from this debate. The Home Office has announced that it is to do away with the golden visa route into the country, which is how kleptocrats arrive here. When we think of people coming here—documented or undocumented, but particularly those who have legal documentation—it is not particularly fair that there are people who buy themselves a route into the country by having millions, whereas those who are genuinely in distress and concerned for their lives must go through hurdles such as those identified by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton.

I have some sympathy with the comments of the noble Baroness on the subject of people overstaying and on the right to remain here. In particular, she made the point that, very often, students overstay—that after their two-year period here they stay on, and so forth. She made the point that neither the coalition Government nor the Conservative Governments have gone along with the idea of having personal identification cards of any kind. She is right about that—but, with respect, that is rather a sledge- hammer to crack a nut. To some extent, it is a responsibility on people who sponsor students to come to this country, for example, to find out whether they have complied with the rules and go back to the country or overstay. There is some personal responsibility on organisations—companies, the NHS and public organisations—to follow that up. That would be simpler than having such an expensive solution. I think personal identification cards for the whole population were calculated as costing about £20 billion.

Very briefly, I was also referring to undocumented people who overstay tourist visas and stay on here. If the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, needs any proof of that, he needs to go to—I should not single out any particular nationality —a fine ethnic minority restaurant in Birmingham and go into the back rooms. He will see plenty of those. Then there are Deliveroo drivers, for instance.

I take that point.

On the main point made by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, I sympathise with his point about the changes in the Immigration Rules. They have been extensive; there has been a huge number of changes—almost every few months, frankly—and they are practically incomprehensible. It is a paradise for lawyers; the detail they go into and the language they use is virtually incomprehensible. The noble Lord who spoke for the Opposition is nodding with some feeling on that. It is incredibly difficult to understand what is going on half the time. For heaven’s sake, there must be some way of simplifying all this for the ordinary person in the street.

I wish, more than anything else, for some transparency. I am in favour of a transparent framework for asylum seekers and economic migrants of all kinds, which would be debated in the House of Commons annually. You would have a cap for a year; it would be looked at, people would understand where it came from and particular interest groups would be consulted. We could do that for the year and then look at it again to see what had happened—what had gone wrong, what had gone right and so on. We could have an annual debate, like the Budget debate—although perhaps not as long; maybe a day’s debate—in the House of Commons and the House of Lords, so that everyone could have their say about this. It would be a much more transparent and sensible way, and it could deal with some of the ignorance and myths, which, as my noble friend Lord Lilley pointed out, surround this whole subject of immigration and asylum seeking.

Having said that, I do not disagree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on his point in his Motion. The fact is that there is a huge problem here of human trafficking—we all know that; it is an international business. The smugglers—they are smugglers in effect—started off with drugs and tobacco and so forth, and now they deal in human beings. It is an international trade and all western European countries are facing this difficulty. It is completely illegal and to deal with it you really have to make a differentiation in law. You cannot deal simultaneously, in the same breath, with people who abide by the rules and who come here under acknowledged schemes, such as the Ukrainians, the Hong Kong people, the Afghans and so forth—they are large in number and we admit them freely and gladly to this country—and people from Albania who pay someone £2,000 to illegally enter this country. You cannot treat those people on the same basis; it is impossible to deal with the human trafficking and have the same legal basis for both activities.

Secondly, on safe routes, again, my noble friend Lord Lilley made the point that there is quite a large number of safe routes into this country. How far can you really expand them, realistically? Even now, Manston camp is taking in 3,000 asylum-seeking people, and it is really capable of taking only 1,000. With hotels in the north of England and the Midlands full of asylum seekers, we are now getting to the point where the hotels can no longer take them, because they want to do ordinary tourist business, so local authorities will be asked to take more. That means that council properties will be consumed by asylum seekers and will not therefore be available to local people. Of course, inevitably, it is the poorer parts of the country where all these people end up; they do not go to the Cotswolds or Hampstead because of the house prices. They end up in Blackpool, Middlesbrough or Darlington. Therefore, ordinary people—very often the poorest people—suffer the consequences. In all conscience, we have to consider that, as well as our natural and understandable concern about the position of genuine asylum seekers.

My final point is that, however many safe routes you have, there will still be trafficking across the channel, and people saying to those in Albania, Afghanistan or wherever, “We can get you into England—if you pay us a couple of thousand quid, we will get you across the channel.” However many safe routes you have and however much you expand that—I do not think that it can be expanded too far, for all the other reasons I have given—it will happen none the less. Therefore, there must be some system of deterrence, and I believe that the Government’s proposals—which have not yet come into practice of course because of all the legal objections—are the only answer to deterring people totally.

We are already seeing that some Albanians have decided not to apply for asylum in this country because they are afraid of being sent to Rwanda. They have been sent within 24 hours back to Albania under the agreement that we have with the Albanian Government. In a small way, even despite all the legal problems and judicial reviews and so on, you can see a deterrent factor working. The Government are pursuing the right angle here; it is not working in practice at the moment because of all the judicial reviews and legal difficulties, which is a great pity.

We are in a democratic society, where there is a clear public will to deal with illegal immigration. The Government—the major party—have voted it through the Commons and we have voted the Bill through the House of Lords. For it then to be stopped, potentially for months and months, by judicial activity, makes it seem that democracy is not working properly. That should not be allowed to happen in a functioning country such as ours. On that basis, I cannot agree with the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, despite understanding his desire for the whole issue to be treated with great humanity, with which I would agree.

My Lords, I congratulate the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, on securing this debate; I very much agree with what he says about the Immigration Rules.

Before going too deeply into the details, I want to say that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Horam, about the complexity of the Immigration Rules. They are so difficult. I chanced upon a document produced by the Law Commission—I do not know how long it has been out; it does not have a date. It says at the beginning that the Law Commission was asked to review the Immigration Rules to identify ways in which they could be redrafted to make them simpler and more accessible. The one thing I can say about the rules we are debating today is that they are certainly not simple or accessible. I have read them about three times, and I have read the explanation of the rules about three times, and I am still not very much the wiser. I commend to the Home Office the Law Commission’s report. If it was written some time ago, it is still very much up to date. The idea is that the rules should always be drafted in such a way that they are meaningful and comprehensible.

I will comment very briefly on one or two things that have been said. I am personally very much in sympathy with what the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, said about identification. I do not think that I can bring my own Labour Party with me on this, but I believe that, in terms of the rights of individuals, it would be an improvement. If any noble Lords have tried to open a building society savings account, they will know of the number of documents that one has to produce as evidence that one is who one is—sometimes, I just take my passport with me, as it is a lot simpler than anything else. I also have a little advice: when one is moving house, make sure that your wife or partner is also named on the utility bills, because there comes a point when you have to produce evidence for her as well—or the other way round. I have gone through this in getting a blue badge for my wife; it is complicated, because one has to get all this evidence. ID cards might well be helpful, and we should debate that more fully another day.

I was a little surprised by the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, when he said that more people claim asylum in the UK than in France. I was not aware of that. It was my understanding—and the Minister may be able to give us the figures—that of the people arriving in France, far more claim asylum in France than seek to come to this country to claim asylum here.

I am sorry if I was unclear. I said that of those who make a claim in France, only half as many are granted asylum on first application as in the UK.

I am grateful to the noble Lord. I think that is an argument on my side rather than on his, though, is it not? If more people who get to this country are given refugee status because of the claim they have made, surely that is an argument to say that we should look differently at groups 1 and 2, which would lessen their chances, if I have understood it correctly. At any rate, my proposition is that the majority of people reaching France claim asylum in France; only a minority seek to come here. It is surely the lack of safe and legal routes from France to this country that has given the traffickers a field day. The answer must be to have a better relationship with France and to do this on a more co-operative basis. Rather than simply criticising the French, I think we have to co-operate with them as the only way to move forward.

I turn very briefly to other points. Paragraphs 345A and 345D of the Immigration Rules deal with admissibility provisions. My understanding is that this is about returning claimants to a safe third country if they came through that safe third country. We discussed this at length when we were discussing the then Nationality and Borders Bill. My question for the Minister is this: without accepting the basic proposition, if this is the Government’s policy, can he give us any idea of safe countries through which asylum seekers reach Britain and which have agreed that they should be returned? Have we an agreement with the French, the Germans, the Belgians or whoever else? I do not think we have. Clearly, the policy will be unworkable unless such an agreement has been reached.

It is my contention that these measures are in breach of the 1951 Geneva convention. The Government say that everything they are doing is in line with the 1951 Geneva convention, but it is a matter of whose view one accepts: the Government’s view or that of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. I would have thought that the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees is the guardian of the convention, rather than people who have an opinion which the Government should be able to ignore.

I refute the idea that one should not claim asylum in Britain if one has been through a safe third country. Most of the routes to safety go through other countries. We can fly Ukrainians in but they all come through Poland. The only people who can get here directly are probably people from Hong Kong, who can get on a plane that leaves Hong Kong and arrive at Heathrow. For the rest, it is very hard to see how asylum seekers can make a journey without going through a safe country. I suppose that is the basis for the distinction between group 1 refugees and those who were given a lesser right under the group 2 arrangements—which I think is a breach of the convention.

I will pick up one other point, which may or may not have been debated in the past. The replacement paragraph 339O states:

“The Secretary of State will not … grant of refugee status if in part of the country of origin a person would not have a well-founded fear of being persecuted, and the person can reasonably be expected to stay in that part of the country”,

even if there are difficulties in making that journey. I think what that means—and I am going back to Afghanistan before the Taliban took over—is that the Home Office for a time thought it was okay to return Afghans to Afghanistan because they were safe in some parts of the country. It is an incredibly difficult proposition to say to someone, “You fled for fear of persecution but in a little bit of your own country you would have been okay.” I am not sure that that stands up to a lot of scrutiny, and I am concerned that it could be misinterpreted. We saw what happened when the Taliban finally and tragically took over the whole of Afghanistan, where the Home Office policy would not have worked anyway, because people would have been under threat of persecution in all parts of the country.

I do not like the approach of these complicated Immigration Rules. I do not want to go through all the arguments we had on the Nationality and Borders Bill, because we spent a lot of time on that and some of the points are simply restated in the Immigration Rules, but as a method of approach I find it incredibly difficult. It is hard to pick out the key issues from the less important ones. There is a mention of Rwanda in either the statement of changes or the Explanatory Memorandum which we talked about earlier this afternoon, and I think it is a policy of doubtful validity.

To paraphrase the noble Lord, Lord Horam, I think he said he did not like the way the lawyers got in on the act or judicial review and all that. Surely, it is one of the safeguards in a democracy that we have the rule of law and that lawyers can challenge government decisions. It may be a nuisance for Governments, but surely judicial review is one of the important safeguards. We as a country still believe in the rule of law; I hope we will go on doing so, whatever changes there are in government Ministers, Home Secretaries or whatever.

My Lords, I add my support to the Government and the aims and objectives of this immigration statement of 11 May. Respectfully, I do not support the regret Motion tabled by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I found it very interesting to listen to the arguments of my noble friends Lord Horam and Lord Lilley, with which I agree.

Of course I empathise with the terrified people whose desperation is so great that they risk their lives, and their families’ lives, to seek a safe refuge. This is an unimaginable position for anyone. However, I also accept that something effective must be done at our borders to stop criminals intent on abusing these fears and risking people’s lives. It cannot be right that a country such as ours, which stands proudly for protecting the vulnerable, standing strongly with those who have been wronged and upholding the highest standards of human rights and justice, should at the same time, due to inaction or inefficient action, be facilitating conditions for this injustice to occur.

That is why I support the statement from 11 May and believe it will help with the immigration crisis we face on our shores. The statement has introduced new permissions to stay where a person is granted on a protection route and made a pledge finally to define what “claim for humanitarian protection” means, so people who really need the help most know clearly who they are and their application can be completed swiftly, with the most minimal of delays. A clearer definition for the exceptional circumstances which warrant children coming to join refugee parents or relatives will also provide more transparency and clarity and make it easier for children to join loved ones sooner and more safely.

It also provides some different allowances for when a person comes to the UK via another safe country. I think this is fair enough. Maybe the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, stuttered, but he said that people come through another safe country, and then slightly retracted the comment. We must deter dangerous journeys and encourage asylum claims to be made in the first safe country. Differentiating between people who come here first and people who come via another safe country is important and fair.

I support all these measures and the Government’s other moves on immigration, such as amending criminal offences, with increased maximum penalties for people smugglers and boat skippers, and the ability to impose visa penalties where countries pose a risk to international peace and security, to name but a few. These will ensure that those most at risk and most vulnerable will be welcomed and protected while those who use current loopholes for their own criminal gains and risk other people’s lives in the process are stopped in their tracks. We should get on with this without delay.

My Lords, it has been an interesting and wide-ranging debate, bearing in mind the subject of the regret Motion, but we support the regret Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, and we are very grateful to him for bringing these changes to the attention of the House.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, regrets the implementation of plans, set out in the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, to treat refugees differently depending on how they entered the United Kingdom. The issue is yet to be tested in the courts, as it inevitably will be. We maintained at the time, as the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, has said, that it was a breach of the UK’s international obligations under the UN refugee convention—a view supported by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.

The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, has an interesting perspective on the backlogs in asylum applications. Some 10 or more years ago, we had double the number of asylum applications and a fraction of the backlog. We were deporting far more overstayers and illegal immigrants than we do now. All this points to a catastrophic failure by the Home Office—nothing more, nothing less.

As far as Ukraine is concerned, the Government have been very generous on the basis that they expect and hope that the vast majority of those people will return to Ukraine, once peace has hopefully been restored. It is a very different situation.

I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, that rather than taking back control of our borders, we have thrown them open. As the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner of Margravine, said, there is nothing now to stop people coming here with visa-free entry, which is not only still open to residents of all EU countries, but the Government have added 10 more countries to that list. These are people who can put their passports in the e-passport gates at the airport, disappear into the country and nobody knows who they are, where they have gone or whether they ever leave.

I am a little confused about the arguments on identity cards. The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, who apparently supports the idea, told us how difficult it is to open a bank account. Tell me about it—I have been trying to open a bank account for the last two weeks. I have shown my passport and I have gone to the bank; it wants to know where my income comes from—most of it is a Metropolitan Police pension. Yet, apparently, we need identity cards as well, to try and control things. I think things are difficult enough as it is.

But we digress, widely. The Minister may argue that our objections were debated during the primary legislation that these rule changes are based on, and the majority of this House rejected those arguments. The specifics—for example, that group 2 refugees will get permission to remain for only what I thought was 30 months but the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, thinks is shorter—were not on the face of the Bill, and this is the first time that Parliament has had the chance to debate the specifics in legislation.

We should not expect details of safe and legal routes to be included in the Immigration Rules, but when refugees are to be treated differently depending on whether they have arrived by a safe and legal route—that is, group 1 refugees—or otherwise as group 2 refugees, Parliament has the right to expect the Government to set out what safe and legal routes are available currently and those that are planned, including any limits on those numbers. Without knowing how many or what proportion of asylum seekers will fall into each group, how can Parliament make a judgment as to whether to agree these changes to the Immigration Rules?

As the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, said, group 2 refugees will be disqualified from family reunion, so we are going to have far more unaccompanied child refugees coming to this country who will not be able to be joined by their families.

This week, the BBC reported that 181 of these unaccompanied asylum-seeking children aged 18 or under have disappeared since they have come to this country. They are put into hotels with no supervision, and they disappear. How many more unaccompanied asylum-seeking children are going to be lost and potentially abused, whether through modern slavery or through child abuse, if they are not allowed to bring their families to join them and look after them? Why is there not a risk assessment around how many more unaccompanied child refugees are going to be placed at risk as a result of these changes?

There is no risk assessment on this at all, but there is precedent in the past for impact assessments to be published alongside changes to the Immigration Rules. In September 2020, the Government published an impact assessment for changes to the Immigration Rules for students. In November 2020, they published an impact assessment for changes to the Immigration Rules for skilled workers. The changes we are debating today are arguably the most fundamental changes to the Immigration Rules ever enacted—so where is the impact assessment?

There are other significant changes in these Immigration Rules that we also regret, in particular the fact that the rules have had to be changed so that eligibility for humanitarian protection will no longer be considered in relation to the country the UK is seeking to return the asylum seeker to, but only in relation to their country of origin, in order to prevent claims against being sent to Rwanda. The noble Lord, Lord Horam, says that he does not feel that there is any alternative to the Rwanda scheme—well, maybe if it is legal. But again, that matter is currently before the courts.

As to the deterrent effect, I appreciate that the Rwanda scheme has not actually been put into practice, but the Government have certainly signalled that they are going to pursue it relentlessly, yet we have record numbers of people coming across the channel. So I question the deterrent effect in the first place. As I say, how can it be the only alternative if it is not a legal alternative? I can suggest an alternative—for example, humanitarian visas, where people in their country of origin are able to make an initial application for asylum in the UK and be told in-country whether that application is likely to be successful when they get to the UK. Alternatively, they might be told, “Please don’t bother paying people to get you to the UK, please don’t bother coming to the UK, because on the basis of the assessment we’ve done here, in-country, you have no chance”. That is an effective deterrent, rather than the Rwanda policy.

The noble Lord says that that is an effective deterrent, but, with respect, it would have to be tested in reality, just as the Government’s measures are being tested in reality—or not tested in reality yet.

Arguably, the Government’s policy is being tested in reality, because the threat hangs over everybody who crosses the channel that they could be sent to Rwanda—albeit that there is a stay on it because of the action before the courts—yet there are record numbers coming across the channel. So, I would argue that we need to try something else.

The whole disgraceful Rwanda policy is designed to avoid the UK making any decision about whether someone is a genuine refugee or not by simply removing them to Rwanda and letting the African nation decide. The change in the rules ensures asylum seekers who arrive in the UK, other than through what I would argue are practically non-existent “safe and legal” routes, will automatically be removed without any consideration of the merits of their claim for refugee status. Can the Minister explain, for an unaccompanied child refugee who claims asylum in the UK because they were in danger of persecution in both their country of origin and the country from which they travelled to the UK, do these changes mean that their persecution in the country from which they fled immediately before arriving in the UK will no longer be considered as grounds for eligibility for humanitarian protection because it was not their country of origin?

Has the Home Office thrown the baby out with the bath water through these changes? If, as the Minister claimed earlier today, the Home Office will consider the vulnerability of asylum seekers before sending them to Rwanda, why can it not consider at the same time whether the application for asylum has any merit, rather than refusing to even consider it and sending people to Rwanda?

We objected to almost every provision in the Nationality and Borders Act and it is therefore no surprise that we regret these Immigration Rules, which give effect to the primary legislation. In recent years, asylum seekers have amounted to only around six in every 100 immigrants to the UK. If anti-immigration advocates, such as the noble Lord, Lord Lilley, believe there is a problem that needs to be addressed, we on these Benches believe the focus should be on the 94% who are being given visas, not the most vulnerable desperately seeking sanctuary in the UK.

There appears to be a glimmer of light in the former Home Secretary’s resignation letter to the Prime Minister today in which she said that

“I have had serious concerns about this Government's commitment to honouring manifesto commitments, such as reducing overall migration numbers and stopping illegal migration, particularly the dangerous small boats crossings.”

The resigning Home Secretary says she has serious concerns about the Government’s commitment to stopping illegal immigration. Can the Minister enlighten us as to what she means?

My Lords, this has certainly been a wide-ranging debate. I intend to concentrate on the regret Motion from the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, which we fully support. We welcome the Motion and the opportunity to discuss matters relating to asylum and immigration in general.

I say to the noble Lord, Lord Horam, that while I do not agree with some of his policy prescriptions, I totally agree with him—which is why I was nodding—on the complexity and sometimes impenetrable nature of trying to understand what is actually going on. That is really unhelpful to any of us debating these matters. We all have different perspectives on this, but all of us are seeking an immigration and asylum system that works and is fair. We will debate how that is achieved but, in order to achieve it, we certainly have to understand what is meant and, frankly, that is sometimes quite difficult. I very much agreed with the point the noble Lord made about that.

I say gently to the Minister that it is extremely unhelpful to the whole debate on asylum, immigration and refugees to have the chaos we have at present. The Home Secretary has just resigned. The noble Lord, Lord Paddick, just quoted her letter, which appears to suggest that although there was a security or national security breach—we are not sure yet—there was also a furious row in government about what was happening with respect to migration targets, visas, refugees, small boat crossings, et cetera.

Whatever our view, how on earth can we debate these matters without being certain what the Government themselves believe in? What is the Government’s policy? Are the new Immigration Rules, which we have debated and discussed and which my noble friend Lord Dubs referred to, government policy? Does the new Home Secretary agree with the Immigration Rules or will he disagree with the Prime Minister? We just do not know. I am not trying to make a political point. I am making the point that from the point of view of this it is extremely important that the Government sort out what they are saying: otherwise, who can have confidence around any of this?

Indeed, while we have been speaking, there have been rumours that the Chief Whip and Deputy Chief Whip have resigned—which are as yet unconfirmed. Here we are—the noble Lords, Lord Lilley, Lord Horam and Lord Paddick, the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner, the noble Earl, Lord Leicester, and my noble friend Lord Dubs—and that is going on all around us. Whatever our view, that just cannot go on.

These are real people, families, refugees and people in need. Even if we think this or that should happen, we cannot have a situation where the Government are falling out among themselves with all that going on. I will just say, because this is the opportunity to do it—I know the Minister will take this—that we simply have to know where we are in order to debate these things.

I found this an interesting debate, which showed the House of Lords at its best. Many of us were Members in the other place, and even where views and arguments clash, out of that comes better public policy, which is what we want.

I want to concentrate on the regret Motion in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Hylton. I will reiterate some other points that were made, because it is important for us to put these on the table and then ask some specific questions.

The Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules published in May reflects changes made by the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, as the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, as well as covering a number of other issues. The key change which the regret Motion quite rightly focuses on is to implement the provision in the Nationality and Borders Act to have two tiers of refugees, with the support a person is entitled to based on how they travelled to the UK rather than their actual need. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, outlined, can the Minister clarify what support is available to the different groups: the length of stay, the support that they will or will not get, the nature of any detention that they would face should they be put in group 1 rather than group 2, and so on? It is unclear to me, reading the Immigration Rules, what they mean with regard to all that, so we need some clarity. The statement makes some changes to definitions, including changes needed to allow for the effective operation of the migration and economic development partnership with Rwanda, and there is some clarification on the family reunion rules.

This Chamber and His Majesty’s Opposition and others raised detailed and sustained objections to the Nationality and Borders Act during its passage. The Act did nothing to address the backlog of asylum claims and in fact clearly risks making things worse. In our view, it did nothing to create genuine safe routes to prevent dangerous journeys. Instead, it put barriers in the way of refugees fleeing war, persecution and unimaginable situations, as well as victims, including children, who are trying to escape modern slavery.

In this House, multiple votes were won calling for proper planning of safe routes, preventing offshoring, calling for international co-operation—a point my noble friend Lord Dubs made with specific reference to the need to work with France—and ensuring safe family reunion routes for unaccompanied children in refugee camps. As the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, said, many children are going missing on arrival in this country; we do not know where they are, which is completely and utterly unacceptable. The House also called for protecting the rights of modern slavery victims, and addressed many other issues. Unfortunately, the elected House, as is its right, insisted on the Act remaining and rejected many of the changes that your Lordships put forward. The regret Motion that the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, has brought forward seeks for us to look again at some of these issues and to raise certain questions.

I point out to the Minister that whatever system you have, there has to be greater effectiveness of the bureaucracy. There is administrative chaos with much of this, and it simply has to be resolved. I will give the Minister some statistics, and perhaps he can say what is being done about it. The number of basic asylum decisions being taken each year by the Government has collapsed. Decisions have fallen from 28,000 to only 14,000 last year. What an earth is going on? It does not matter what system you have; if the number goes from 28,000 to 14,000, there is a real problem. That is fewer decisions than either Belgium or the Netherlands, let alone Germany or France.

According to the Red Cross in the submission it gave us for this debate, of the applications submitted in quarter 4 of 2021, only 7% received a decision within six months. The equivalent of that was 56% in 2018 and more than 80% in 2015. What on earth is going on? What on earth is happening? Irrespective of the system you have, if you get a collapse in the effectiveness of the administration, nothing will work. All you get is undermining of the system. That backlog costs the taxpayer huge sums of money and prevents the system operating effectively. Can the Minister confirm how long—that is, how many years—the average wait for a basic decision to be made on an asylum claim now is?

The creation of group 2 refugees, who will receive only temporary asylum leave, will require the system not only to make the initial decision but to retake that decision multiple times. What impact assessment have the Government done on that change—the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, made this point, I think—where multiple decisions must now be made? What are the Government doing to address their backlog and how will the system, which is already struggling, cope with the additional burden that this measure places on it?

As the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, and others have said, safe routes are the most effective way of preventing dangerous journeys and breaking the business model of the smugglers. Criminal gangs do not care about how a person’s asylum journey ends, nor about the intricacies of UK asylum law; they care only that a person is desperate enough to turn to them in the first place because they feel that they have no other way to seek safety for themselves, their children or their loved ones. Can the Minister give a detailed summary—this would be helpful for all of us—of the safe routes that are available to people to claim asylum in the UK, outside of the resettlement schemes for Afghanistan and Ukraine? The noble Lord, Lord Lilley, pointed to this. What other safe routes are available for anybody seeking asylum in the UK?

For example, how would a woman or a schoolgirl fleeing human rights abuses in Iran, or fleeing for her safety after taking part in the exceptionally brave protests we have all witnessed, be able to travel to the UK safely and in a way that the Home Secretary deems acceptable, and therefore be welcome here? Which safe route is available to her, or is she automatically a group 2 refugee and therefore eligible for deportation to Rwanda? I refer the Minister to the question asked in the other place by Sarah Owen MP:

“Will the Minister give a guarantee that any woman or girl fleeing Iran due to these human rights abuses will not be put on a plane to Rwanda if they seek refuge in this country?”

The Foreign Office Minister, Gillian Keegan, refused to answer. She simply replied:

“We are there to support the rights of women and girls all across the world, and we will continue to do so through our work with the UN and others.”—[Official Report, Commons, 11/10/22; col. 45.]

The question did not ask about women across the world; it asked about the specific example of anyone fleeing Iran because of the situation we have seen there, where many brave women and schoolgirls have been protesting. I think that the country would want to know what happens in that situation; noble Lords may think of other examples. From my reading of the Immigration Rules—they are now law but the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asks us to regret that—I do not know whether, as things stand, such a women would be subjected to deportation to Rwanda. If not, what safe route is available to them to prevent deportation? There are other examples; that is just one that I have picked out.

How many Afghan refugees are still arriving in the UK in small boats out of desperation because they have been unable to access the official scheme? Does not the Minister share the concern raised by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, that, where a group 2 refugee loses access to family reunion rights, this closes off a safe route for their family members—usually women and children—to seek asylum in the UK and makes it more likely that they will make dangerous journeys in the hands of smugglers?

There are so many different points that can be made about the Immigration Rules that we could discuss this all night, but I want to look at the situation with Rwanda. The Explanatory Memorandum for these changes to the Immigration Rules notes that a definition has been changed to allow

“for the effective operation of the Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda … Given the anticipated deterrent effect of the Partnership on people smuggling”—

note that the word used is “anticipated”, not “proven”, as the noble Lord, Lord Horam, mentioned—

“this will help to quickly reduce the number of dangerous journeys and save lives.”

Can the Minister confirm that the Permanent Secretary at the Home Office was unable to sign this off due to a lack of evidence that there would be a deterrent effect, that the policy would achieve its main objectives or that the policy would be value for money? In the Explanatory Memorandum to what is now law, which the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, seeks to regret, does not the Home Office’s own Permanent Secretary disagree with the memorandum’s explanation of the Rwanda scheme? Has anything changed with respect to that or is it still a position that the then Home Secretary ignored?

These are significant concerns that we keep coming back to the House with. Policy is being made without evidence that it will work. There is administrative chaos which will prevent any system from working effectively, and the very real problems for many people seeking asylum in our country are being left unanswered. It is not good enough, and the Government need to get a grip.

My Lords, I thank noble Lords for all the contributions that have been made during this debate, which, as has been observed, was very wide-ranging. There are obviously significant differences of opinion on the subject, so whatever I say I will upset half your Lordships. I thank the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, for the spirit of his remarks; I completely understand where he is coming from, and they are noted.

I will start by talking through the changes to the Immigration Rules. I will try to deal with all the questions that have been asked of me but, in the time available, I suspect I will struggle. I expect a bout of letter-writing at the end, which I commit to do in full, having studied Hansard.

The changes to the Immigration Rules that have been the subject of this debate were made in line with the relevant provisions within the Nationality and Borders Act 2022, as has been observed, which came into force on 28 June. I remind noble Lords that we debated similar topics extensively throughout the passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill. The guidance was also published on 28 June, in line with the relevant provisions in the Act. I assure and remind the noble Lord, Lord Hylton, that our policies do not contravene our international obligations, a subject that I will come back to. Everything that we do complies with the refugee convention. I will try to deal with the more specific questions at the end.

Your Lordships will excuse me if I do not get into a philosophical discussion about ID cards. However, as an aside, I note that we all carry around a smartphone which probably has far more detail than any ID card ever would, so perhaps it is time to reopen that debate.

I take on board the very sensible comments of the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, about the Law Commission. This is a complex subject and we are extremely grateful to the Law Commission for its detailed and constructive work. We have already established a simplification of the rules review committee to look at the drafting and structure of the rules, as part of the multiyear programme of change which is being led by the Home Office. I hope to have some good news for the noble Lord in due course.

Pretty much everybody raised the subject of an impact assessment. In essence, the question is whether there will be an impact assessment for group 2 refugees and, if so, when will it be published. As with all our policy changes under the New Plan for Immigration, differentiation will be subject to ongoing monitoring and evaluation, with the operation of our policies being kept under close review. The Home Office routinely publishes migration statistics, which form the basis of our analysis. My predecessor committed to publishing this in due course, and I am also happy to undertake that, but I cannot go further than that at this precise moment.

If your Lordships will allow me, I will take this opportunity to explain the purpose and function of the Nationality and Borders Act. Its core objectives are to increase the fairness and efficacy of our asylum system, to deter illegal entry to the UK and to remove those with no right to be here more easily and quickly. Differentiation is designed to discourage individuals from embarking on unnecessarily dangerous journeys to the UK and to arrive by the various safe and legal routes that are available. I will come back to “safe and legal”. It is self-evident that those in need of protection should claim in the first safe country that they reach; that is the fastest route to safety. It is not right that the control of national borders should be suspended to allow people who have already reached safety in countries with fully functioning asylum systems to travel further to another country as a matter of preference. This undermines the broader immigration system and, as has been noted across the House, encourages people to fund criminal gangs and risk their lives trying to get into the UK in unseaworthy vessels or packed dangerously into cars or lorries. We have all seen the tragic results and there are some very uncomfortable statistics about how that sometimes ends.

I will briefly touch on the subject raised by the noble Baroness, Lady Falkner. We will come back to golden visas on another Bill so, if she does not mind, I will pass on that for the moment.

As I have said, people are losing their lives by making extremely dangerous crossings over the channel. As a responsible Government, we have to do everything in our power to stop these criminal smugglers. I think that is a general point of agreement.

I will briefly clarify how differentiation functions. Section 12 of the Nationality and Borders Act introduced two groups of refugees. Individuals who came directly to the UK, claimed asylum without delay and, where appropriate, can show good cause for any illegal entry or presence will be recognised as group 1 refugees. If an individual does not meet all these requirements, they will be deemed a group 2 refugee. Both groups will have full access to the labour market and healthcare. The Act means that we may differentiate between refugees based on their group in a number of ways, including the length of permission to stay granted, the route to settlement, recourse to public funds and family reunion rights. That probably does not go into enough detail for the noble Lord, Lord Coaker, and his more detailed question about that subject so, if he will permit me, I will write rather than waste all the time of the speech.

This is what the policy and legislative changes established, with the intention to influence the decision-making of migrants, stopping them turning to criminal smugglers and thus undercutting that business model.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, asked about the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There is no specific provision within the refugee convention that defines a certain term or sets out a specific procedure. Where there is no supranational body akin to the European Court of Human Rights, for example, it is open to states to interpret the terms of the refugee convention. Limit is placed on that autonomy to interpret by way of the principles of treaty interpretation in the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties. The general rule of interpretation in Article 31(1) of that convention requires a treaty to

“be interpreted in good faith in accordance with the ordinary meaning to be given to the terms of the treaty in their context and in the light of its object and purpose.”

On that basis, we have considered relevant factors, such as the law in other jurisdictions, case law and the words of academics. We believe that all provisions reflect a good-faith, compatible interpretation of the refugee convention. I appreciate that opinions on that may differ, but the purpose is to discourage asylum seekers from travelling to the UK other than via safe and legal routes. It aims to encourage individuals to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach after fleeing persecution, avoiding dangerous journeys across Europe. The policy is compliant with our international obligations under the refugee convention and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The noble Lord, Lord Dubs, asked me about returns to various countries. On a case-by-case basis, we have returned asylum seekers to Denmark, Ireland, Italy, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. I do not believe there are overarching agreements, but it does happen on a case-by-case basis.

On the subject of internal relocation, all our asylum claims are carefully considered on their individual merits and in accordance with our international obligations. Each individual assessment is made against the background of relevant case law and the latest available information on the country of origin. It has been a long-standing policy that refugee status will not be granted where an individual can internally relocate to another part of their country of origin in safety.

I am going to talk now about safe and legal routes. We already welcome thousands of vulnerable people in need of protection to the UK through a number of safe and legal routes, including our resettlement schemes. Our schemes have provided, and will continue to provide, protection in the UK to tens of thousands of people to start new lives in the UK.

We should consider the magnitude of the schemes, some of which we have referred to over the course of this debate. The UK resettlement scheme is a global scheme that resettles refugees who have been identified for resettlement by the United Nations refugee agency, the UNHCR. We have been agile and compassionate in our response to world events, as has been noted.

In January this year, the Government launched the Afghan citizens resettlement scheme to provide up to 20,000 individuals with a safe and legal route to resettle the UK. The scheme will prioritise those who have assisted the UK efforts in Afghanistan as well as vulnerable people, including women and girls and members of minority groups who are at risk.

As has been noted, in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in March 2022 we launched uncapped schemes including the Ukraine family scheme and the Homes for Ukraine scheme, which have so far allowed more than 189,000 individuals to seek sanctuary in the UK.

To expand on the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Paddick, I can illustrate this further by reporting that, as of June this year, more than 140,500 British national (overseas) passport holders, threatened, obviously, by the situation in Hong Kong, had submitted visa applications to the UK and 133,124 of those applications have been granted.

The Government also provide safe and legal routes to bring families together through their refugee family reunion policy. That allows a partner or spouse and children under 18 of those granted protection in the UK to join their families here. The route is available to those who formed part of the family unit before the sponsor fled their country.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, specifically asked me about the case of a girl or woman in Iran who is obviously suffering under the rather dreadful state of affairs there at the moment. The resettlement schemes focus on providing sanctuary to the most vulnerable, as determined by the UNHCR, where refugees satisfy the eligibility criteria for our schemes and UN agencies consider resettlement as being the most appropriate durable solution for their circumstances. That ensures that all our schemes are accessible to all refugees, including members of minority groups. I appreciate that probably does not go far enough to answer that very specific set of circumstances.

That is exactly the point. I do not know whether that means that somebody coming from Iran would be eligible. That is the point the noble Lord, Lord Horam, made, which I was agreeing with. So it is either yes or no, and I just do not know from that answer.

My reading of it is that it does, but I accept that my reading may not be entirely accurate. I will also say that, obviously, women in Iran should seek safety in the nearest available safe place, and that is the point of what we are talking about to a large extent.

All this is to underline that we remain committed to helping the world’s most vulnerable and oppressed people. This country has a long-standing tradition of extending the hand of friendship to those fleeing conflict, tyranny and persecution, and that record will continue.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked me a number of very specific questions which I will do my very best to answer in full. He talked about legal aid for refugee family reunion and whether that may or may not be available under the exceptional case funding scheme. It is where failure to provide legal aid would mean there is a breach, or a risk of a breach, of the individual’s human rights and it is subject to means and merits tests. In 2019, we amended the scope of legal aid so that separated migrant children are able to receive civil legal aid for applications by their family members and extended family members. This includes entry clearance and leave to enter or leave to remain in the UK made under the Immigration Rules or outside the rules on the basis of exceptional circumstances or compassionate and compelling circumstances.

The noble Lord, Lord Hylton, asked why the safe route for people from El Salvador has closed. Since 11 May 2022, Salvadorean nationals have been required to obtain a visa prior to entering the UK as a visitor. The decision to impose a visa regime was taken solely for migration and border security reasons. Over the preceding five years there had been a sustained and significant increase in the number of UK asylum applications from Salvadorean nationals at the UK border: up 1,750% since 2017. While this change requires Salvadorean nationals to obtain a visa entry clearance in advance of travel, it does not close the safe and legal routes available to Salvadorean nationals to enter the UK.

The noble Lord also asked whether, under the two existing Ukraine schemes, there is any progress in getting professional and technical qualifications recognised in the country. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is working with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, other government departments and the UK Centre for Professional Qualifications to clarify and promote the process for converting professional qualifications into comparable UK equivalents. That will help Ukrainians to keep up employment in their chosen professions or industries and make the most of their opportunities to use their skills and knowledge while they are living in the UK.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked about asylum wait times. As he noted, the asylum system has been under mounting pressure for several years. Increased and sustained intake, and a growing number of people awaiting a decision, have led to significant delays. We are currently concentrating on deciding older claims, high-harm cases, those with extreme vulnerability and those of children. I am afraid I am unable to offer specific timescales at this time, but I commit to notifying the noble Lord as and when I can. I will pursue that particular statistic.

Before I finish, I will talk about the practicalities and practice. They were noted by a number of people, including the noble Lords, Lord Hylton and Lord Horam. To some extent this informs the debate about Iran. Who are we talking about, coming across in small boats? That is essentially the nub of this. In 2022, 87.7% have been male. Between 2019 and 2021, 89.7% were male—it is pretty consistent. The top five countries of origin for small boat arrivals this year, bearing in mind that most of the migrants are men, are Albania, Afghanistan—where there is a safe and legal route—Iran, Iraq and Syria. I am not diminishing those people’s reasons for wanting to be in this country, but I question whether Albania is really the right source for asylum claims. It has been noted that some of them have chosen not to seek asylum, with the deterrent effect of the policy around Rwanda. I also point out that of those men—I did the numbers this morning—approximately three-quarters are between the ages of 18 and 39.

A couple of noble Lords, including the noble Lord, Lord Dubs, pointed out that there has been persistent criticism of France. I am not here to do that. I am here to commend France, because since July 2020 we have made more than 500 arrests, dismantled 21 organised crime groups and prevented more than 23,000 crossings. So I thank our French friends for their efforts in that regard. I hope they continue and perhaps improve. Who knows? There may be room for improvement.

The noble Lord, Lord Coaker, asked me a bit about Rwanda in relation to women from Iran. With the exception of unaccompanied children, any individual who has arrived in the UK through dangerous, illegal and unnecessary methods since 1 January 2022 may be considered for relocation to Rwanda. But decisions will be taken on a case-by-case basis and nobody will be reallocated if it is unsafe or inappropriate. Everyone considered will be screened and have access to legal advice. I cannot be more unequivocal than that, but I take the noble Lord’s point and will certainly raise it in discussions. I hope that satisfies him.

This is a very complex subject. It is a global phenomenon, influenced by multiple and complex factors. I am sure noble Lords are aware of the horrifying statistics of displaced persons around the world. I think this country is trying to do its bit but, obviously, we cannot take all of them. That is just not possible, as my noble friend Lord Lilley noted.

I close my remarks by again thanking noble Lords for their contributions throughout this debate. I understand this remains an emotive issue, obviously. The Government are committed to upholding our domestic and international obligations through safe and legal routes while also securing our borders, upholding our immigration laws and preventing unnecessary and dangerous journeys to the UK. We do not concede that the legislative changes and policy intentions behind differentiation are insufficient or problematic, as proclaimed in the regret Motion. We therefore cannot agree with the stated position of the regret Motion advanced by the noble Lord, Lord Hylton.

My Lords, I had slightly expected that this might have been a rather dry-as-dust debate on the precise terms of the regulation. To my delight, it has branched out and blossomed. Many very important issues were raised, so I am doubly grateful to all those who have taken part in it. I note that they have come from all sides of the House. I join in the congratulations made earlier today to the Minister on his new role, and thank him in particular for his precise answers to the several questions that I raised with him in preparation for this debate.

The debate has touched on Rwanda, so maybe I could briefly say why sending people there would be a very bad idea. It is a country with a high poverty level and very poor human rights record. For example, refugees who have protested have been fired on and a number killed. There are strong allegations that refugees who have left Uganda to go to other countries have been murdered by Rwandan agents. I note that Israel had an agreement with Rwanda but has had to abandon it. I very much hope that Denmark will not follow this dangerous and unreliable course, and that development aid will not be used as a bribe to persuade the Rwandans to take external people.

That is all I need to say on that. Having done so, and having thanked those who need to be thanked, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion withdrawn.

House adjourned at 8.43 pm.