This is the original concern: BBC: Rishi Sunak pledges more staff to help clear asylum backlog
(see article at the end of this post for details)
Quakers in Britain responded: Vulnerable people who arrive on our shores should be treated fairly under international law, Quakers say
Quakers believe that all people are precious, everywhere. Today they speak out yet again against the UK government’s plans on migration which continue to embed policies of discrimination into the practices of the British state.
Announcing his latest plans for the asylum system, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said new legislation would make it clear that those entering the UK by unsafe and irregular routes would not be able to remain.
But the Prime Minister’s plans, announced on Tuesday 13 December, criminalise those seeking sanctuary and contravene the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, of which the UK was a founding signatory.
The UK should do more to promote peace and climate justice abroad, allowing people to live safely at home, rather than being forced to take often life-threatening routes to safety, said Oliver Robertson, head of witness and worship at Quakers in Britain.
He welcomed the employment of more staff to tackle the backlog in asylum claims but called for a culture of compassion and welcoming hospitality that answers that of God in every person.
Claims should be decided correctly the first time, and staff should not make prejudiced assumptions based on where people come from, Oliver Robertson said.
Furthermore, refugees should not be housed in unsuitable accommodations such as disused holiday parks, former student halls and surplus military sites but in the community where they can integrate and access services.
Oliver Robertson said: “Quakers have worked for decades to welcome newcomers to our shores. We have watched the government’s creation of a ‘hostile environment’ with dismay, as it has dehumanised and demonised people fleeing war and climate change.
“We bear witness to the humanity of all people and reject the culture of disbelief and discrimination within the UK immigration system. The only true security is security for all.”
The UNHCR has appealed to the UK to uphold its international legal obligations. A spokesperson said: “Providing protection and sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution remains the cornerstone of the international refugee system.
“In limiting access to asylum to those arriving through ‘safe, legal routes’, today’s proposals go against the basic principles of international solidarity and responsibility-sharing upon which the 1951 Refugee Convention was founded. That framework endures as a lifesaving collective commitment between states.”
For decades, the United Kingdom has stood in solidarity with refugees and the communities around the world impacted by crises. Today’s announcements mark a troubling step away from that commendable humanitarian tradition.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, shares the UK Government’s concerns regarding irregular arrivals across the Channel. Many of the measures announced today are practical and constructive, particularly an intention to strengthen dialogue and cooperate more closely with the UK’s European neighbours. UNHCR has long advocated for the UK to strengthen and streamline procedures to address the asylum backlog and fairly and efficiently manage new applications. UNHCR welcomes measures to decide asylum claims promptly while ensuring appropriate safeguards and protection, and will continue to work closely with the Home Office in support of these efforts. Similarly, the announcement to step up returns of those found not to be in need of international protection is essential to a well-functioning asylum system.
UNHCR also does not oppose designating countries as “safe countries of origin” as a procedural tool, provided that this follows a clear, transparent and accountable process. However, the designation must not lead to blanket rejections of applications for asylum purely on the basis of country of origin. An assessment of the merits of the individual claim is still required, which ensures all procedural safeguards including appeal rights.
However, providing protection and sanctuary to people fleeing war and persecution remains the cornerstone of the international refugee system. In limiting access to asylum to those arriving through ‘safe, legal routes’, today’s proposals go against the basic principles of international solidarity and responsibility-sharing upon which the 1951 Refugee Convention was founded. That framework endures as a lifesaving collective commitment between states.
“The announced proposal to first detain, and then either return asylum-seekers to their home countries, or transfer them to a third country would amount to a denial of access to the UK asylum system for those who arrive irregularly,” said UNHCR’s Assistant High Commissioner for Protection, Gillian Triggs. “That approach would close down access to asylum in the UK for all but a few. This would likely result in refugees having no means to establish their status and place them at risk of forced return to unsafe countries, in breach of the Refugee Convention. It would also undermine the global refugee system at large and would be a violation of International Refugee Law.”
The adoption of such a policy by other countries would increase the already disproportionate responsibility held by low- and middle-income states, which are hosting the vast majority of refugees and asylum-seekers worldwide. UNHCR has repeatedly conveyed its deep concern regarding the Rwanda arrangement, which breaches international law and shifts the UK’s responsibilities onto a country already striving to manage existing responsibilities to a large refugee population from neighbouring countries.
UNHCR welcomes the plan to increase refugee resettlement to the UK. But resettlement cannot replace the international obligation to extend protection to asylum-seekers arriving in the UK and applying for protection directly.
UNHCR will continue to engage in discussions with the UK, which remains a valuable and long-standing partner to UNHCR, in order to find practical ways forward in line with UK’s international commitments.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- In London, Catherine Stubberfield, firstname.lastname@example.org, +44 788 023 0985
- In London, James Bulman, email@example.com, +44 777 556 6127
- In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41799679936
The Government has yet again shown it doesn’t have a workable or principled solution to address the appalling model of people smuggling and the dangerous channel crossings.
It is simply wrong to say all those crossing the Channel do so without good cause. All the Home Office figures show that in fact the vast majority are desperate women, men and children doing everything they can to protect their families by fleeing war, conflict and persecution. Without safe routes they have no choice but to take dangerous journeys. The Prime Minister failed to set out any concrete plans to expand these routes through a resettlement programme or an expansion in family reunion visas.
Instead this government wants to treat people who come to the UK in search of safety as illegal criminals. This is deeply disturbing, flies in the face of international law and the UK’s commitment as a signatory of the UN Convention on Refugees to give a fair hearing to people who come here in search of safety and protection . Many people from Albania face real danger and persecution – we must not turn our backs on them or any other nationality seeking asylum.
We need a fair, orderly and efficient asylum system that doesn’t leave 150,000 people in limbo waiting months and years for a decision. Today the Prime Minister offered very little in terms of concrete steps to reduce the massive backlog of asylum claims and we remain concerned that this commitment to clear it by the end of next year will not be delivered.
We have outlined recommendations based on our 71 years of expertise in working with people seeking protection and stand ready to work constructively with government to reduce the backlog and deliver a fair and humane asylum system.
The prime minister’s immigration speech in the Commons comes three years after his party won a general election telling people a Conservative government would take control of immigration.
Just eight months ago, the government’s flagship immigration bill promised “to fix our broken asylum system”.
Let’s look at some of the key things Rishi Sunak has now promised to MPs – and the challenges he faces.
[Read the analysis here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-63965141…]
“We expect to abolish the backlog of initial asylum decisions by the end of next year.”
I’ve written extensively on how the backlog has rocketed since 2018.
Part of the reason is that Home Office staff are taking longer and longer to deal with cases.
Another is that since Brexit there has been a growing number of cases it officially won’t deal with, so they remain in limbo. (A post-Brexit rule change declared that people coming from the EU could be blocked from making an asylum claim and sent back to the safe country they had come from – but, as said above, the UK has no returns agreement with the EU).
The challenge is basically enormous. In 2004 Labour’s PM Tony Blair set a far less ambitious target to complete more cases in a given period than new ones joined the pile. It took the Home Office two years to come close to hitting it.
Read more: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-63965141
This is the original concern: BBC: Rishi Sunak pledges more staff to help clear asylum backlog
Rishi Sunak has promised more staff to help clear the UK’s backlog of asylum claims by the end of next year.
But Downing Street later clarified the pledge was not to abolish the total backlog – only initial claims made up to the end of June.
Under a plan unveiled by the prime minister, a dedicated unit of 400 specialists will be set up to handle claims from Albanians.
Refugee charities branded the plans “cruel” and “ineffective”.
The asylum backlog has ballooned in recent years, with 117,000 outstanding claims, relating to 143,377 people, who are waiting for an initial decision on their application and unable to work. Of these, nearly 100,000 people have been waiting more than six months.
In the Commons, Mr Sunak said the government expected to “abolish the backlog of initial asylum decisions by the end of next year”.
However, the prime minister’s official spokesman later clarified that this pledge only related to claims made before 28 June, when the Nationality and Borders Act came into force. He said this consists of 92,601 initial asylum claims.
Labour’s shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper said Mr Sunak’s pledge was “already falling apart”.
The other measures announced by Mr Sunak in the Commons include:
- 700 staff for a new unit to monitor small boats crossing the English Channel
- a pledge to end the use of hotels for asylum seekers
- plans to house 10,000 individuals waiting on claims in disused holiday parks, former student halls, and surplus military sites
- a commitment to double the number of asylum caseworkers, who assess claims
- more staff and funding for the National Crime Agency to tackle organised immigration crime in Europe
- plans for Parliament to set an annual quota for refugees coming to the UK
- new laws, to be introduced next year, to “make unambiguously clear that if you enter the UK illegally, you should not be able to remain here”