By Joy, Campaigns and Public Affairs team
MPs have started their long summer recess and will be returning to Parliament on Monday October 6th. Over the last few months MPs of all parties have been harangued by public and press over their expenses, and many will argue they are in desperate need of a generous summer break to recover from the roasting in the media. Let’s hope that this recent period as national hate figures leads them to empathise with another much-maligned group: the asylum seeker. Although I imagine few asylum seekers will be enjoying a restorative summer holiday this year.
In Westminster now you will find a few Committee Clerks and some lonely Researchers rattling around and counting down the days until Party Conference season, when all Parties descend to the seaside for a week (or Manchester for the Tories this year). The Refugee Council will be attending all three conferences and we will let you know how we get on at a later date.
Before the MPs packed their swimming suits and sun-cream they did vote through the latest immigration Bill which received Royal Assent the day before the recess started. The Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act (as it’s now known) introduced some significant changes which affect refugees applying for naturalisation: Most people must now have a qualifying period of eight years (up from 5). We opposed this as we believe a person recognised as a refugee should receive permanent residence from this date. After what may have been a lengthy and uncertain asylum process they should be allowed to start rebuilding their lives as soon as possible.
Some good news did came out of the Act though: arrangements now have to be in place in relation to safeguarding the welfare of children, bringing the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) in-line with other public bodies that have contact with children. This is long overdue and UKBA is now consulting on the guidance for this new duty.
More information on the Act will be found on the RC website, or see the press release from UKBA