Focus: Policy and Politics - Question Time - Neil Gerrard, All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees

What are your thoughts on section 9 of the Nationality Immigration and Asylum Act?

I think it is conforming to what a lot of people were afraid would happen when it came in, and not actually doing what the Home Office said it wanted it to - that is, to persuade people to leave the UK on a voluntary basis.

What can happen now that Barnardo's and the Refugee Children's Consortium have highlighted the section's incompatibility with child welfare legislation?

The Home Office has said it is reviewing the pilot. I raised it at the committee stage of the current Bill and the answer that the Home Office minister,Tony McNulty, gave then was essentially that he wasn't interested in running something that didn't work or failed to achieve what it was supposed to.

I think there is scope for persuading the Home Office that there is actually nothing to be gained from rolling it out nationally, which is what it was intending to do.

What is the likelihood of preventing a nationwide roll-out?

I'm not saying it's going to be easy, but nor am I completely pessimistic about it. I think there's a real possibility.

Should concerned organisations contact the Home Office?

Absolutely, especially if what they have to say is not argumentative but factual information about what is happening on the ground and what they're actually seeing as a result of the use of section 9.

That's what we really need - hard evidence of what is going on.

What is the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees, of which you are chair, currently working on?

There's obviously the Immigration, Asylum and Nationality Bill, which is going through Parliament. We also recently had a meeting about issues to do with detention centres. I think the next thing we'll be doing is trying to inform people more about the new asylum model.

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