Guy Verhofstadt cheers House of Lords for blocking Boris Johnson’s immigration legislation

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Peers have now demanded a series of changes to the Immigration and Social Security Co-ordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill, including to ensure continued and additional help for unaccompanied child refugees. The legislation, which paves the way for a new points-based immigration system long praised by Home Secretary Priti Patel, suffered a series of damaging defeats in the upper house on Monday evening. The huge setbacks for the Government in the Lords raises the prospect of a legislative tussle with the elected House of Commons, which could take several weeks to conclude.

The Liberal Democrat Lords Twitter account wrote: “Brilliant win just now on @oatesjonny‘s amendment to the Immigration Bill that would force the Govt to provide EU citizens in the UK who are granted Settled or Pre-Settled Status with physical proof of their migration status. So important!”

Mr Verhofstadt celebrated the victory, and said it was “impossible to understand” why the UK Government does still not provide physical proof of settled or pre-settled status.

In reply to the tweet to the Lib Dems, he wrote: “The last time I was in London, the UK Government officials agreed to provide physical proof of settled or pre-settled status.

“Impossible to understand why they are still resisting, but there is some hope!

“Citizen’s must not be the victims of Brexit.”

Conservative MP and former Brexit Secretary David Davis tweeted separately: “Great to see @UKHouseofLords pass an amendment to the Immigration Bill putting a 28 day limit on migrant detention.

“As it stands, migrants can be held for months or years on end without charge. This must change. I hope the @HouseofCommons supports this when it comes back to us.”

The heavy defeats for the Government started with peers backing a Labour-led amendment by 304 votes to 224 to demand an independent review into the impact of ending free movement on social care.

This has materialised following warnings it could trigger huge staff shortage and deepen the crisis facing the sector, which is already grappling with the coronavirus pandemic.

Peers then voted by 312 votes to 223 to block the introduction of financial restrictions on Britons returning to the country with their families after March 2022.

The next heavy defeat came when Lords backed an amendment proposed by refugee campaigner Lord Alf Dubs by 323 votes to 227 which, which wants to give EU children in care and care leavers automatic and indefinite leave to remain.

Later in then, Lord Dubs celebrated a second victory, after peers backed a change to continue existing arrangements for unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with close relatives in the UK by 317 votes to 223.

Speaking during the Bill’s report stage, he said: “Child refugees are the most vulnerable of all refugees.

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“One of our concerns must be to tackle trafficking and give child refugees legal routes to safety.

“If there are no legal routes to safety, the traffickers simply exploit vulnerable people and make a lot of money out of it and endanger the lives of the children.”

Opposition frontbencher Lord Rosser argued putting the provisions of the amendment in the Bill “will ensure that routes to safety through family reunion and relocation remain, which means that families can reunite and children can reach safety”..

He added: “The consequence in respect of risks to their safety, for those seeking to join their families and for unaccompanied children are simply going to get even worse.

“Action is needed now to address the situation that is imminent.”

Conservative Party Home Office Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford replied: “This Government is equally as concerned as all peers about the wellbeing of vulnerable children and is committed to support them wherever we can.”

On Sunday, Home Secretary Ms Patel pledged to introduce new legislation that would toughen up the asylum system in the biggest overhaul seen in decades.

She said in a speech at the online Conservative Party conference: “Our asylum system is fundamentally broken.

“I will introduce a new system that is firm and fair.

“I will bring forward legislation to deliver on that commitment next year.”

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