Northern Ireland news

UK government's new immigration plan 'encroaches on devolved areas'

Maria McCloskey, an immigration solicitor from the Children's Law Centre

THE British government has been warned its `New Plan for Immigration' encroaches on devolved issues in Northern Ireland as well as contravening important obligations under international law.

Immigration lawyers at the Children’s Law Centre say the plans water down child protection safeguards, placing vulnerable children "in extreme danger" at increased risk of exploitation

The Home Office has been consulting on the new plan, with the measures announced in the Queen's speech this week.

It says the proposals are a "common-sense" approach to controlling immigration.

Maria McCloskey, an immigration solicitor from the Children's Law Centre, said it will create "a two-tier immigration system that will put vulnerable and traumatised children in harm's way by sending a horse and cart through children's rights and protections".

She warned it "encroaches" on devolved justice powers.

"At the Children’s Law Centre, we provide legal assistance to the majority of separated children and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children who arrive in Northern Ireland.

"We are talking about very traumatised, scared and vulnerable children. Under these new rules they would be treated as a separate and secondary tier of asylum seeker, by refusing to grant them full refugee status and the ability to remain in the UK.

She called on the Home Office to instead find ways to improve rights protections for children.

"If tackling people smuggling is the aim, then provide safe and legal routes for asylum seekers.

"Children should not be punished for their nationality or immigration status. They should be protected from harm."

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