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The current delay in settling an applicant’s status discriminates against children. In Grand Committee, my noble friend refuted this contention on the grounds that Section 83 is not restricted to asylum-seeking children, but rather applies to all those granted leave of 12 months or less. What he failed to acknowledge was that those affected by the provision are nearly all children. The only other group for whom discretionary leave is habitually granted for less than 12 months is those excluded from protection under the refugee convention and the Government have admitted in the course of this Bill that these are very few in number,

It was argued in Grand Committee that the significant lapse of time between the initial application and the appeal is seriously problematical for children and can result in significantly less favourable treatment of them in the appeals process. At a significant time after the relevant events, it is much harder to gather evidence for appeal. For example, many children will find it difficult to recollect important details and it is often impossible to trace important witnesses.

The lapse of time is in contradiction to a central pillar of the new asylum model, by which the Home Office seeks to improve initial asylum decision-making. The NAM ordinarily requires the Home

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Office decision maker to defend his or her refusal in person or at any appeal. This provides a strong incentive for the decision maker to make a careful decision. However, if the decision-maker knows that no appeal can be brought for several months, possibly years, the incentive is lost. Some children lose contact with their lawyers before their appeal is heard, which results in many being unrepresented at the hearing.

As immigration judges are required to consider the circumstances pertaining at the time of appeal, it is always likely to be disadvantageous to children to have their appeal dealt with a year, at least, after the decision to refuse asylum. If the length of delay means that the young person’s appeal is heard after they become 18, this can put them at a further disadvantage. This is chiefly because children benefit from a more generous application of the Legal Services Commission merits test for legal aid funding than adults. If the first chance to appeal against the refusal of asylum occurs once the child has become an adult, they will be merits tested at the adult standard and may, therefore, be denied representation of their appeal.

The effect of Section 83, the consortium has persuaded me, is to delay a young person’s access to an appeal before the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal. That makes the social worker’s job of planning for the young person’s departure—they are charged with this work—virtually impossible because the young person concerned will always have a reasonable chance or hope that the decision to refuse asylum will be overturned. I beg to move.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, explained in some detail what happened following the publication of APU Notice 3/2007, which amends discretionary leave for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The child who, in the opinion of the officer, does not qualify for refugee status or humanitarian protection will normally be given discretionary leave for 12 months or to the age of 171/2, whichever is the lesser. As the noble Lord explained, the effect is that the child has to submit an application for an extension of leave when he approaches the age of 171/2 and, when that is refused, the substantive application for asylum is heard. That may happen months or even years after the original application, when, as the noble Lord also explained, memories of the events that gave rise to the asylum application will have faded and forensic evidence will be that much more difficult to collect.

The effect of the child failing to lodge an application within the milestone of 171/2 years of age would be that he would have no right of appeal at all. Although case owners are urged to see that legal representatives advise children to make an application—they will not get paid extra for that additional work—there may well be instances where, as the noble Lord said, the lawyers lose touch with the clients through the lapse of time.

The general answer to maintaining better contact between UASC and their representatives may be found in the consultation document, Planning Better Outcomes and Support for Unaccompanied Asylum

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Seeking Children
, which we talked about when debating the previous amendment. Under the system proposed there, some 40 to 50 specialist authorities in four regions outside London and the south-east would have responsibility for all UASC, with about 100 in each of the specialist authority areas. The authorities concerned would then be able to build up their services to cope with an even flow of UASC. As I said, contact would be better maintained and the expenditure of the local authorities in question could be planned over the medium term. Of course, the local authorities would have to be properly reimbursed for the costs that they would incur in setting up the system, and it would be useful to hear something about the discussions with the LGA on that subject. The power to apply residence conditions in Clause 16 would have to be used for this purpose, and I ask the Minister whether it is intended to direct the existing UASC into the areas of the specialist authorities or only to use the power with new arrivals once the arrangements are in place. It would be a far bigger job if the 6,000 UASC, the majority of whom are in London and the south-east, had to be moved to new homes in the specialist authority areas, if that is the intention.

When it comes to the provision of legal services, the arguments are not quite so clear. In huge areas of the north, there are no specialist legal aid services available for asylum seekers, let alone for UASC, and the withdrawal of Browells, for example, means that there is a legal aid desert in the Newcastle area. So the market model is not likely to work, because providers who would offer services under legal aid will not spend huge sums of money training experts and attracting them into the areas of the proposed specialist authorities without a firm presumption of getting a contract. On the other hand, it would be irresponsible of the BIA to award a contract to a provider with no previous experience of this work.

The Refugee Legal Centre and the IAS could no doubt fill the gap in theory, but even they would have to be advanced funded to get lawyers with the necessary expertise to migrate to Newcastle and other centres where there is no capacity at present. No doubt, one of the reasons why some two-thirds of UASC are in London and the south-east now is precisely because those are the only regions where they can get the best advice.

6 pm

Lord Bassam of Brighton: My Lords, an asylum claimant whose claim for refugee status is refused, but who is none the less granted more than 12 months of leave to enter or to remain in the United Kingdom, can appeal to the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal against the rejection of his claim for asylum. Where someone’s asylum claim is refused and they are granted 12 months or less leave to enter or remain, they may not immediately appeal, although of course they would have the opportunity to appeal against any subsequent decision to remove them from the United Kingdom. Strong policy reasons still exist for the 12-month restriction which this amendment seeks to remove.

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We recognise that noble Lords propose this amendment so that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children may obtain finality and clarity to their immigration status as early as possible. We do not believe that this amendment achieves that aim. Instead it would cause disarray in the appeals system and bring little or no benefit to the young people it seeks to assist.

The underlying principle for why we must resist this amendment is straightforward. The purpose of requiring more than a year of leave to be granted before appeal rights may be exercised is to ensure the smooth operation of the appeals system should there be a mass influx of people who are not entitled to protection under the refugee convention and need to stay for only a short period of time. For example, in 1999 there was an influx of claimants from the Balkans, thousands of whom subsequently returned there once the situation in their countries improved. The appellate system cannot cope with such a sudden surge in the numbers of appeals in the system. Nor would it be economical for us to provide an appeal for thousands of short-stayers of this type. The legislation as it is framed protects the tribunal from such situations and we believe that it should continue to do so.

Where someone is granted a period of leave of 12 months or less because of a temporary problem in their country of origin or some other short-term factor, we expect that person to return to their home country after a period of short stability in the United Kingdom and without the need for an enforced removal. Should we need to enforce removal, there is an immediate right of appeal against that decision. Whenever someone has an asylum or human rights claim, a decision to remove always attracts a right of appeal.

Young people are not deprived of that right. Where 12 months or less of leave is granted, the opportunity to appeal is deferred until a further immigration decision is taken at the end of that period of leave. The effect of this is to delay the right to appeal by a maximum of 12 months and an average of just six months. We estimate that approximately 750 young people are affected by this each year.

For all the turbulence in the appeal system that this amendment could cause, it aims to bring forward only the appeals of a relatively small number by a relatively short time. Apart from damaging the appeals system, this amendment fails to achieve its aim of bringing an early answer to the question of young people's immigration status. I remind noble Lords that 80 per cent of asylum appeals are dismissed. Where young people's appeals are dismissed but they remain in the UK with discretionary leave, their status is not necessarily finalised. Only when that discretionary leave expires at the age of 171/2 can the final decision and appeal process fully consider whether human-rights reasons exist as to why removal from the United Kingdom is inappropriate.

I hope that I have been able to offer some reassurance to noble Lords. Our policy of granting leave only until age 171/2 to those unaccompanied asylum-seeking children to whom we have refused asylum, but who cannot

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return, is designed to create a system where young people are clear about their future status in the United Kingdom by age 18. We acknowledge that it is not perfect and, of course, will work to improve the system through policy changes.

The noble Lord, Lord Judd, asked about legal aid, and whether it was harder to acquire for adults. The merits test is designed to be based on more factors than just age. Appeals may of course have a good chance of success irrespective of age. I hope that, having heard what I have to say, he will feel able to withdraw his amendment.

Lord Judd: My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply, and the noble Lord, Lord Avebury, for his important contribution.

It is unfortunate. We all talk about the importance of consultation. Here we have a consortium made up of responsible, dedicated, hard-working voluntary organisations working with the people to whom the amendment refers. They come to us with a plea about the denial of the fulfilment of children’s rights in their direct experience, ask us to do something about it and we let them down. This is very sad. It denies the spirit of consultation, which must mean a readiness to respond to what those with insight have to say.

I have made my second point repeatedly; I said that I would go on making it ad nauseam and I will. We live in a world which is volatile in security terms. The last thing we should be doing is giving people in their formative years a frustrating experience which leads to a sense of grievance, their potential alienation and worse. Are we serious about winning hearts and minds or not? If we are, it is in the details that we will win them—not by exhortation and general principles, but by being seen to be committed to the needs of those who are faced with difficulties, in keeping with the values we espouse. I feel profoundly disappointed that we cannot budge on this, but nevertheless beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 24 [Seizure of cash]:

[Amendment No. 29 not moved.]

Clause 31 [People trafficking]:

Lord Judd moved Amendment No. 30:

The noble Lord said: My Lords, recent reports of extensive police activity, not just in London but across the country, have vividly illustrated how widespread the consequences of trafficking are. The numbers are growing; the physical dangers and psychological traumas for those involved are immense. As a nation,

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we are beginning to realise that those being trafficked are likely to be primarily victims of a ruthless trade rather than just an extension of illegal immigration or sordid prostitution.

We dealt with these issues in Grand Committee but, in view of the seriousness of what is happening and the frequently acute danger to and suffering of the victims, I seize this opportunity to beg my noble friend to take another look at what is proposed by this amendment and consider it more favourably. Why have we still not ratified the Council of Europe convention? Why can we not have a clear target date for its ratification in order to bring the necessary discipline and urgency to preparing for its implementation? Of course the Government’s case—that they do not want to ratify until we are able to implement—is an honest position that one can respect, but one must have some discipline in place to ensure that preparations are being made with a sense of urgency.

What has happened to the action plan during the summer? Why are the Government not prepared to reconsider their reservation on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in this context so that the paramount importance of the protection of children, in line with the firm exhortations of the Prime Minister about the need for inclusive policies towards children, can be ensured?

The director of Bail for Immigration Detainees has this month written to a number of noble Lords about the issues, stating:

I submit that the wording of the amendment is explicitly relevant and clear in its formulation to this grave social challenge. The fears of vicious bodily harm and other disturbing consequences for those apprehended, or for their families, and the anxieties about the nightmare of being retrafficked, cannot be overestimated. I beg to move.

Baroness Hanham: My Lords, my noble friend Lady Anelay tabled a similar amendment in Committee, so I support what the noble Lord, Lord Judd, has put forward.

One of the real obscenities in today’s world is the trafficking of women, and the fact that they are very apparently being trafficked into our country makes it no less an obscenity. It is also clear that we must have different ideas about what happens to people who are trafficked. A chief constable recently appealed for help, one of the reasons being that she had such a problem in her area from women who had been trafficked and who were to all intents and purposes

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imprisoned by those who had trafficked them. The problem is horrendous, so we need to consider the amendment most carefully. I hope to hear from the Minister the Government’s proposals for dealing with this unusual situation in terms of immigration. These are people who do not necessarily want to be immigrants, but who are attracted to come here under entirely false pretences. The whole practice is built on dishonesty in all respects and we must try and find another answer to it. I support the amendment.

The Lord Bishop of Winchester: My Lords, I, too, support the amendment. First, I pass on the apologies of my friend the right reverend Prelate the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, who has had to set off back to Yorkshire but who would have liked to be here for this amendment.

We have seen this situation in Southampton in recent months. I understand that increasing evidence shows that it is difficult for some of those trafficked—in particular women, either into prostitution or into the kind of domestic service that lays them open to physical ill treatment and probably rape—to return to their own countries. That may be because they fear the same gangsters who brought them into this country or because they have been forced into prostitution and subjected to rape. Significant numbers of people are here, helpless because they have been trafficked into this country and their position is increasingly akin to that of asylum seekers. They are certainly not economic migrants because they have not come under their own steam. It is a really serious matter.

In the past 18 months, we in Winchester have celebrated the centenary of the death of Josephine Butler, that remarkable campaigner in these matters during the last 30 years of the 19th century. She spent quite a bit of the 1880s and 1890s resident in the Close in Winchester because her husband was a canon. We have been reminded that there is a long tradition in this country of our failure to look with the greatest care at the victims of prostitution and similar hardships. There is a good book about her called Beating the Traffic, which links her own history through the years to the present realities and to the activities of CHASTE and a number of other organisations. It is most important that this serious and still developing problem—women in particular, but also children and men, who are trafficked for use in agriculture—is taken seriously in this way.

6.15 pm

Lord Avebury: My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Judd, will recall that at the end of June a debate on this subject was initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, and there was another debate on it in Grand Committee a month later. We also talked about trafficking on Tuesday, so there is no lack of attention from Parliament to the massive problem of human trafficking. As I said last Tuesday, the consensus seems to be that the national action plan on tackling human trafficking maps out the right strategy and that although there has been some criticism of the delay in signing up to the Council of Europe

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convention—we heard it again today from the noble Lord, Lord Judd—we signed it on the day that the UK Human Trafficking Centre was established. As the Minister said in his response to the debate initiated by the noble Lord, Lord Sheikh, we are now working on the action plan to enable us to ratify the convention at the earliest possible date.

In that debate, I suggested that the Government should report periodically to Parliament on progress on the implementation of the action plan, particularly on the ratification of the convention, but that was one of the points that the Minister did not have time to cover in his response. He promised to write to those who took part, but we still have to hear from him on that. This debate is not a substitute for my proposal because it would be far more useful if, in the normal course of parliamentary business, we had written reports in advance so that we could take advice from the agencies on what the Government said in their progress report before we came to debate it on the Floor of the House.

In the June debate, the Minister made a useful comment on the international dimensions of trafficking. He outlined various measures being taken by the FCO and DfID with a view to reducing trafficking at source, and he particularly mentioned the work of the UKHTC in complementing the activities of the Serious Organised Crime Agency. It will be better if we can fight trafficking in the countries of origin rather than waiting until the victims arrive here to land up in brothels or as domestic slaves. But since the money to be made out of human trafficking is commonly agreed to be vast, there have to be protective measures for the victims who are rescued here as well. According to unpublished Home Office research mentioned by the JCHR, there may have been 4,000 victims of trafficking for prostitution in 2003—I wonder if that research is going to be published. Being able to give even a rough number would seem to imply that the police know where the brothels are, and I wonder if the police consider that they have adequate powers to close them down and give foreign involuntary prostitutes the chance of freedom.

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