Asylum seekers should be allowed to work, banning people from working is just one of the many ways that the Government dehumanise and punish asylum seekers. Why would we not want them to work? Why would we not want them to play a role in society? Why would we not want to engage them and get them out of the probably dreadful accommodation that they are living in? Where is the logic in not letting them work? It will leave them destitute, which is not healthy for them or for us.
My speech to the House: I point out to Lord Horam that the stresses and strains being experienced by local economies and local people have actually been created by his Government, the Conservative Government, over the past 12 years. Their levelling-up message—I will not call it a campaign—is only to repair some of the damage they have done in the past 12 years. Please, I want no lectures about making things easier for people, because this Government have made things much harder for many millions of people.
I also express my admiration for Lady Lister, who has shown incredible perseverance, persistence, bravery and toughness in keeping on about this subject. Her deep knowledge is informing the House. I really hope that we can listen to her, hear from her and learn from her; I include the Conservative Front Bench in that.
The way that asylum seekers have been detained in unsuitable accommodation in this country is a national outrage—a national disgrace. We should be deeply ashamed of it. If these conditions were not in violation of international law, then frankly we ought to be fighting for a change in international law, because no country should treat people like this.
The amendments in this group would have a two-pronged benefit, by improving the standard of accommodation and reducing the time for which people can be detained. I hope that the Minister will reflect deeply on the impact that this government detention is having on people’s lives, and accept these amendments.
Later in the debate I said: It is a pleasure to have signed the amendment in the name of Lord Paddick, and other Lords in this Chamber. For me, banning people from working is just one of the many ways that the Government dehumanise and punish asylum seekers. I honestly cannot see the logic behind it. Why would we not want them to work? Why would we not want them to play a role in society? Why would we not want to engage them and get them out of the probably dreadful accommodation that they are living in? Where is the logic in not letting them work? It will leave them destitute, which is not healthy for them or for us—though I suppose it is slightly better than sending them back to face persecution in their home country.
This Government are not brave enough. They pander to the right-wing parts of their own party and the country, and constantly use nationalist rhetoric to divide and rule. The Conservative Members of the House of Lords are better than that—and some of them do argue against what the Government say. On this occasion, this side of the Chamber is absolutely right: asylum seekers should be allowed to work.
Later I added: In spite of our rather uncertain economic situation—if anyone from the opposing side wants to say that it is all terribly healthy, a Radio 4 programme more or less corrected that conceit yesterday; we have a slightly unhealthy economic situation, and it is not as good as people in the Government claim—we are still a rich country. We ought to show a little more generosity to people who have lost virtually everything, not to mention the fact that we have often caused the instability that forced them to leave their homes. Whether it is Afghanistan, Syria or other countries, when we have sold weapons, invaded or, as I have said before, used fossil fuels to the extent that we continue to do, we have destabilised many countries throughout the world. We have a moral obligation to behave better and take in refugees. This amendment is worthy of acceptance.
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We debated again later in the day: I will speak to Amendments 83 and 88, which I have co-signed, and Amendment 96, but there are some other superb amendments. I am not a lawyer—I am not going to apologise for that because I have had an interesting life— but I did get a lawyer to look at this for me; not yet a QC, but obviously it is a possibility. Their thoughts were that these evidence notices treat asylum seekers like criminals—in fact, worse than criminals; they treat asylum seekers as if they were dreadful criminals.
In a criminal case, late evidence might be treated as less compelling than if it had been raised earlier on, but evidence is evidence, and if evidence demonstrates a fact, then that is a fact. Facts do not care about your timescales. Rather than allowing a tribunal to determine how much weight to give the evidence, Clause 25 forces them to give minimal weight if the evidence is supposedly late. Even if it were the most compelling evidence, a tribunal would be forced to give it minimal weight. That really cannot be right; it is not justice. I cannot believe the Minister will stand up—in a few moments, we hope—and say that this is justice. This is an artificial exercise. It is not founded in justice. It is a purely political venture to make it harder and harder for people to claim asylum, and to make it easier for them to be deported. It must be stopped.
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