Solidarity with Refugees

‘The  most draconian anti-refugee legislation yet’ – 

Aidan Cantwell, Interim Deputy Director at the Jesuit Refugee Service UK, reflects on the Bill going through Parliament.

At JRS UK we continue to stand in solidarity with refugees and demand an end to the latest attack on the very principle of asylum, and call for a just and humane asylum process.

The Nationality and Borders Act (2022) sought to criminalise arriving in the UK informally to seek asylum and has been excoriated for contravening the Refugee Convention and attacking refugees, punishing them for circumstances far beyond their control. Last week the government formally presented the new “Illegal Migration Bill”, the latest cruel and ill-thought out measure for punishing refugees for the realities of their displacement.

If it’s latest act is enacted, this legislation is very likely to lead to many people trapped in limbo here, unremovable, but also with no route to gain recognition as refugees in the UK or otherwise regularise their status. It is very troubling.

The Government has just launched its most draconian anti-refugee legislation yet. It is anticipated that under the new laws, people arriving without immigration leave:

  • Have their asylum claims made automatically ‘inadmissible’ which means that the Government will not even consider their claim for protection.
  • Be held in detention – and this includes children.
  • They will also be removed to a third country as soon as practicable, which is in fact an impossible pledge as it requires negotiation with receiving countries, and the so-called Rwanda plan has not resulted in a single removal to date, and neither looks to do so until 2024.
  • Be permanently banned from returning to the UK.
  • Be unable to use family rights law to stop removal. Thereby causing greater distress by keeping families apart from each other.
  • Be denied access to protections and support for victims of modern slavery.

These measures could applied very widely indeed, and amount to a ban on asylum. They purport to halt people traffickers who facilitate the channel crossings and appeal to voters who wish to see a curb on immigration. Instead of highlighting and tackling the enormous backlog in asylum claims, they divert attention to another “problem”, and actually play into the hands of traffickers by making it impossible for their victims to seek help, and indeed actively refusing that help to some of the people most likely to need it.

Our Director at JRS UK, Sarah Teather said: “This proposed bill is the latest measure aiming to punish refugees for the realities of being forcibly displaced. Refugees travel however they can and there are vanishingly few formal routes for them. To deny sanctuary to people who need it based on their mode of arrival is grotesquely cruel and cravenly dishonest. Furthermore, these proposals are unworkable and are not a rational response to those seeking asylum on our shores. A more productive approach would be to create safe, accessible routes whilst embedding a culture of protection in our asylum system. As the former coalition Children and Families Minister I’m particularly appalled by the reported plans to begin wholesale detention of children. Once upon a time the Conservative Party recognised that this policy inflicted long term damage on young lives and vowed to stop the practice. If this commitment is abandoned now for headlines, it will mark a dark day indeed.”

The Home Office claims that there are a number of “safe and legal” routes to the UK.

However, these are only available to people from specific countries such as Afghanistan and Ukraine, or for British National status holders in Hong Kong and the numbers of refugees settled via these routes remain very small.

aidanCAidan Cantwell is the Interim Deputy Director at JRS UK

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