The Home Office has launched a public consultation on their 'New Plan for Immigration'. The plan, published today, proposes sweeping changes to the way the UK fulfils its international obligation to those seeking asylum, most notably by proposing differential treatment according to the way a refugee arrived in the UK.
The document includes the following key proposals on asylum reform:
- Repeating the government's commitment to resettling refugees without outlining any targets on numbers to be resettled.
- Providing enhanced levels of protection to resettled refugees, including permanent leave to remain and enhanced family reunion rights.
- Reducing the level of protection for refugees who arrive via irregular routes, by limiting their access to welfare benefits and family reunion rights, and requiring them to be reassessed by the Home Office every 30 months.
- Replacing current arrangements for accommodation with reception centres in the south of England.
- Removing the current margin of error policy whereby Immigration Officers decide to treat those claiming to be children as adults make age assessment decisions about people seeking asylum.
- Changing the way that asylum decisions are made and fast tracking appeals for certain categories of applicants.
- Keeping the door open to allow offshore processing in the future.
The document commits to exploring ways in which the UK can assist people to reach safety from dangerous situations in their home countries, but offers no details on this. There are also general commitments to assist refugees into employment.
Responding to the new proposals, Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said:
"This year marks the 70th anniversary of the UN Convention on refugees, a proud milestone that we should be celebrating by welcoming refugees who need our protection. Instead the government is seeking to unjustly differentiate between the deserving and undeserving refugee by choosing to provide protection for those fleeing war and terror based on how they travel to the UK. The reality is that, when faced with upheaval, ordinary people are forced to take extraordinary measures and do not have a choice about how they seek safety.
The government is effectively creating a two tier system where some refugees are unfairly punished for the way they are able to get to the UK. This is wholly unjust and undermines the UK's long tradition of providing protection for people, regardless of how they have managed to find their way to our shores, who have gone on to become proud British citizens contributing as doctors, nurses and entrepreneurs to our communities. All refugees deserve to be treated with compassion and dignity, and it's a stain on 'Global Britain' to subject some refugees to differential treatment."