British Home Secretary Suella Braverman said Monday that unaccompanied asylum-seeking children will be exempt from detention and removal under the UK’s controversial illegal migrant bill.
“Given the mischaracterization of the bill from members opposite, I would like to make a few things clear. The home secretary’s duty to remove will not be applied to detain and remove unaccompanied asylum-seeking children,” Braverman told members of parliament in London.
She added that children instead will be provided with necessary support until they reach the age of 18.
“Only in limited circumstances, such as family reunions, would unaccompanied asylum-seeking children be removed from the UK,” she said.
Braverman stressed that the focus of removals would be on adult men under the age of 40, who represent the overwhelming majority of illegal arrivals.
“Removing them will be our primary focus. But we must not create incentives for the smugglers to focus on people with particular characteristics by signposting exemptions for removal.
“It is right that we retain powers to adapt our policy so that we can respond to any change in tactics by the smuggling gangs,” she added.
The UK government’s new plan to stop small boat migrants has been met with criticism from human rights organizations and refugee advocates who argue that it violates international law and the UK’s obligations under the Refugee Convention.
The plan includes detaining the majority of those arriving on small boats for the first 28 days without bail or judicial review and preventing them from making claims to stop deportation until after they have been removed.
According to Amnesty International, the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers are protected by international law regardless of how and why they arrive in a country.
The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has expressed concern over the matter, saying that if passed, the legislation would amount to an “asylum ban.”