The plans announced today by the Home Office to introduce a new immigration system undermine the fundamental human right to seek asylum, and ride roughshod over the lives of people forced to flee their homes owing to conflict, instability or persecution.
Under new proposals, only people seeking asylum who enter the country through a ‘safe and legal’ resettlement route will be considered for indefinite leave to remain. Those who enter through a means that the government considers to be ‘illegal’ (such as via boat, through a third country) will not be granted refugee status and will instead be subject to the constant threat of removal.
For the first time, under the new proposals, a person seeking asylum will have their claim considered on the basis of their means of entry into the country, not on the merit of their asylum claim.
Ros Holland, Chief Executive of the Boaz Trust, said: “Seeking asylum is a human right, not a crime. Yet under these proposals, the Home Office seeks to claim that it is illegal for a person seeking asylum to do so, except through a very narrow scope of refugee resettlement programmes, for which very little detail has yet been provided. The Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme has ended and the government voted down an amendment which would have allowed vulnerable child refugees to enter the UK. What are these ‘safe and legal’ routes? Without broader and effective routes, the government's proposals will only push people further into the hands of smugglers.
“The reality is that desperate people are forced to make desperate decisions – be that travelling on fake documents or putting themselves and their families in a boat. To try to criminalise people for attempting to save their own, and their families lives, is inhumane. The idea that such people will no longer have their claims to asylum fairly heard, and that they can expect to live in constant fear of deportation, is a particular kind of cruelty. We know from our work with clients the deep mental health wounds that are caused not only by the experience of fleeing a country, but also from the culture of disbelief that exists within the Home Office, which leaves people in a perpetual state of distress.
“Priti Patel is right to describe the UK asylum system as ‘broken,’ but not as a result of people seeking sanctuary within it. Rather the system is broken because it refuses to recognise the legal rights of sanctuary seekers and chooses to demonise people in an increasingly abhorrent way.”
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