HC Deb 18 November 2003 vol 413 cc822-3W
Simon Hughes

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what action he plans to take to amend his Department's policies in relation to(a) the detention of children in removal centres and (b) the education of those children in local schools. [131765]

Beverley Hughes

We have no plans to amend our policy in relation to the detention of families with children in removal centres. Children will continue to be detained as members of family groups as it would clearly not be in the interests of children to separate them from their parents. The vast majority of families with children are detained for a short time, most for only a few days immediately prior to removal. Removal centres that may hold families with children for anything more than a few days are required to have arrangements in place to provide educational classes to the children concerned. At present, this relates only to Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre and Oakington Reception Centre. The education provision at Dungavel is well established. The position at Oakington is different in that the need for educational provision has arisen only comparatively recently and is in the process of being put in place. We have no plans to change the overall arrangements for the provision of educational classes or to place the children concerned in local schools.

Mrs. Curtis-Thomas

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department what steps he is taking to ensure that asylum seekers are integrated into the community. [138322]

Beverley Hughes

The full integration into British society of asylum seekers awaiting decisions on their claims is neither achievable nor desirable. Asylum seekers are for example, generally not permitted to take up employment. We are working to speed up the decision-making process so that their status is resolved more quickly. Nonetheless the Government is fully committed to ensuring that asylum seekers who make their claims in accordance with the law are enabled to live in decent conditions and gain access to essential services, including education for their children, and that they may live in this country without fear of harassment. We also seek to encourage asylum seekers to contribute through volunteering to the communities in which they live.

In order to promote these ends, the regional management of the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) maintains regular contact with all the relevant statutory and voluntary services in the areas to which asylum seekers are dispersed. NASS holds regular meetings to ensure that issues relating to the local integration of asylum seekers are raised and, where possible, resolved locally. Regional management will be representing NASS and asylum issues in all matters relating to community cohesion. We are also gradually developing our police liaison and intelligence capabilities to help provide safe and secure communities where asylum seekers are dispersed.