Last week there was uproar in the UK in response to Priti Patel’s latest asylum plans which are the biggest threat to the right to asylum the UK has ever seen. So, what exactly did she propose and why are these proposals so dangerous?
Let’s start with a quick recap. Everyone has the right to live in safety. Tragically, sometimes home is no longer safe, and you have to make a tough decision to leave your country. In these cases, other countries have agreed to grant people asylum meaning they welcome you in and enable you to rebuild your life. Under international law, we all have the right to claim asylum in any country, and to get a fair hearing from that country. This legal right exists no matter what method of transport you use to get there. If our lives were no longer safe in the UK we’d look to our neighbouring countries, places we knew the language, or where we had family members, and ask them for safety.
So, what has been proposed and what does this mean?
The proposals would mean people have different rights and their cases discredited depending on how they get to the UK. This would create a dangerous two-tiered system of ‘good refugees who arrived via official routes’ and ‘bad refugees’ for the people needing to take dangerous journeys to reach safety.
The Government’s talk of ‘official’ routes is extremely misleading anyway. There are currently no safe routes for people to get to the UK to seek asylum - after resettling just a handful of people in the last 12 months, our only resettlement scheme is now expired with no plans for a replacement. These ‘official’ routes don’t actually exist!
Asylum claims cannot be made from outside of the UK, so you must get here first to have your case for asylum heard. People seeking asylum can’t just jump on a plane or a ferry to get to safety. If you’re being persecuted BY your state or country, then obtaining official identity documents that allow you to travel may not be possible. Hassan Akkad, a Syrian Refugee also explains: “For many people there is simply no way to get to the UK without using unconventional routes. Whether you are escaping brutal military conscription in Eritrea, are a gay person in Iran, or a political dissident in Egypt, you cannot just walk into a British embassy and ask for help.”
A new resettlement scheme would be a good thing of course. But, on its own, it will only push more desperate people into taking dangerous journeys. Resettlement is just one very narrow route to safety that most refugees will never be able to access. As RAS voices (Refugee and Asylum voices who are experts by experience of the asylum system) said last week ‘nobody chooses persecution’. The people coming to the UK are desperately seeking safety and have no alternatives. Trying to shut off and criminalise all but one limited route to safety will not prevent people needing to seek asylum and so will only result in people taking more dangerous journeys – empowering people smugglers and others willing to exploit them. We need a wide range of safe routes.
The proposals also mean that people granted refugee status would only have this for a short period making them continually at risk of deportation. This removes any chance of people being able to rebuild their lives. Instead, people would be living in fear, constantly at risk of their recent safety being torn from under them. People may never be able to see their families again either as family reunification rules, which allow separated family member to reunite in a country, wouldn’t be applicable – this would mean an unaccompanied child may never see their parents again.
The real issue:
We are not facing an asylum crisis and the numbers of asylum applications in the UK is actually falling. Our asylum system is broken, but these plans fail to address any of the real issues:
- Five times as many people lost their lives in government-provided asylum accommodation than trying to cross the Channel last year.
- Waiting times for asylum claims have been increasing astronomically. More than 76% of all people seeking asylum wait over 6 months for a decision. Many of these people have waited over a year but the Government doesn’t record this information!
- While waiting for their claims to be assessed people are forced into poverty living off only £5.66 per day due to a Government ban on people seeking asylum being able to work and due to absurd calculations about living costs.
- 1/3 people have their asylum claims overturned on appeal highlighting how often the Home Office decision making is wrong.
- The UK doesn’t currently have ANY ‘official’ or safe routes for people to get her to claim asylum. After resettling just a handful of people in the last 12 months, our previous resettlement scheme is now expired with no plans for a new scheme. The UK Government has also recently voted to stop unaccompanied child refugees in Europe being able to reunite with family members in the UK.
What’s the solution?
Priti Patel stated ‘if you don’t like my plan, where’s yours?’ Given her plan is inhumane and dangerous, not liking the plan doesn’t even cut it. But luckily many of the experts, including our friends at Refugee Action and JCWI, have their own plans (which Priti Patel has been ignoring!).
Priti Patel must stop condemning and vilifying desperate people forced to make dangerous journeys. Instead:
- We need an asylum system based on compassion, dignity and humanity that offers people safety when they need it most.
- We need a range of safe routes for people to travel to the UK to apply for asylum including the introduction of a humanitarian visa.
- We need to scrap the proposals the Government put forward this week.
Take action and sign the petition from Choose Love now.