Response from some Status Now Network members to the British Refugee Council’s Vision

7 August 2023: Intro: This opinion piece by some SNN members has been written quickly, soon after the British Refugee Council published its vision at the end of July 2023.  We wanted to respond as immediately and impactfully  as we could, to encourage further discussion within  the sector as a whole.  Hopefully,  alongside the British Refugee Council itself, more Network members and other groups and organisations in the sector will become engaged in the discussion going forward.

A contemporary and preliminary response from some Status Now Network members to the British Refugee Council’s Vision, published in July 2023, published here with an invitation to the Refugee Council to respond.  Thank you.  


To some of us in the  Status Now Network this British Refugee Council vision appears to abandon the principle of everyone’s basic right to claim asylum, preferring to pick and choose particular people that suits recent Government agendas. It was in the devastating wake of ‘picking and choosing’ that the 1951 convention came into existence.  Now is not the time to turn away from its principles – on any level.

Factual Context

In the general principle of international law, treaties in force are binding upon the parties to it and must be performed in good faith. Britain and Ireland have ratified the 1951 Refugee Convention which can be read in full at link footnote,[1] obliging these countries to protect the refugees on their territory in accordance with its terms.   Published to coincide with the 72nd anniversary of the creation of this Convention, the British Refugee Council’s latest ‘vision’[2] describes its focus as:

  • Expanding the safe routes available to people who would wish to seek safety
  • Meaningful partnerships with French and EU partners
  • Running a fair and efficient domestic asylum system  

In the last financial year, (ended March 31st 2022), the Council’s income was £15,792,000 and, of this, £8,218,000 was generated through government grants[3]


As we all know, it is very risky to bite the hands that feed us. However, there comes a time when doing anything less than biting off the whole hand becomes even more dangerous.  Here though, the British Refugee Council has left  the appendage as dexterous, unencumbered and deadly as it was before their publication.   

The idea of ‘safe routes’ is disingenuous. In the same way that people aren’t getting on small boats because smugglers exist – it’s the opposite actually, smugglers exist because people are so desperate that they are prepared to get on small boats – people aren’t trying to reach Britain because they do not have a ‘Refugee Visa’.  The Refugee Council’s visa proposal does not address the fundamental problem that people are not safe in their home countries and that, historically and contemporarily, the British State is heavily implicated in this fact[4] . In turn, this implication is further complicated by contemporary revelations about how much Nation States are in hoc to Multinational Corporations[5].  The net outcome is that, around the world, people are not safe in their homelands so they move and, if they reach France, they become unsafe in the open sewers that are its Northern refugee encampments.  Here, the reports of the treatment of white, as compared to brown and black refugees when they arrive only serve to reconfirm what we already know: that the application of immigration processes are intrinsically and intensely racist. [6]

These issues bring us to the British Refugee Council’s  second focus on meaningful partnerships with French and EU partners. These partners include a Nation State  government whose police force has recently precipitated widespread revolt after the shooting dead a 17 year old French citizen [7](following on from Britain’s own, recent killing[8]  of unarmed Chris Kaba by police firearms officers[9]) and the EU bloc that the British Government is working with through the private company Frontex,[10] the same Frontex that the EU rights watchdog is now investigating[11] in the wake of 500 plus people drowning off the Greek coast[12]. These partnerships do not comprise benign forces. 

And finally, the idea that it is possible to ‘run’ a fair and efficient domestic asylum system is a contradiction in terms.  The asylum system is intrinsically racist, as evidenced through the tip of the iceberg that we see in the form of the multiple court cases which find the British Government, not refugee people seeking asylum, breaking the law.   For example, just days before the Refugee Council launched its vision the Home Secretary was found to have acted unlawfully[13] by withholding weekly payments of £3 for children and for pregnant women. 

These briefest examples of concerns raise considerable questions about the Refugee Council’s proposals.  

Two Conclusions  

1.  That the British Refugee Council has, inexorably, become absorbed into State machinery and, by buying into the notion that the smugglers are the problem, taking on their rotten ‘partnerships’, and conceding to the concept of ‘illegal migration’, it has begun to prepare its ground for what it anticipates will be a Labour Government shoe-in come the general election.

2.  That the vision of the British Refugee Council is wrong.  We urge them to re-vision, working  closely with other organisations in the sector to address these concerns, interrogating the implications of their suggestions and taking in the wider, real, picture.  We’re here and we want to be a part of that with you.  Thank you.

[1] Convention and Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees | UNHCR

[2]  Towards a National Refugee Strategy: Our Vision for a Fair and Humane Asylum System – Refugee Council

[3]  application-pdf

[4]  Leading news & media organisation uncovering the UK’s global footprint (

[5]  How the United Nations is quietly being turned into a public-private partnership | openDemocracy

[6]  Calais, notorious for its refugee tent camps, hosts Ukrainians at a hostel by the beach – The Washington Post

[7]  France riots: Minister deploys 45,000 police amid riots | Reuters

[8]  France riots: ‘I’ll put a bullet in your head’ – Witness says police threatened teen before fatal shooting | World News | Sky News

[9] Chris Kaba: Police shooting of unarmed man treated as homicide – BBC News

[10] UK and EU agree to collaborate over cross-Channel migration | Financial Times (

[11] EU watchdog launches investigation into Frontex’s role in deadly Adriana shipwreck | Euronews

[12] How migrant tragedy unfolded on the high seas off Greece | Reuters.

[13] High Court Judgment Template (