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What’s this all about?

The home secretary has revealed her ‘New Plan for Immigration‘ indicating what we can expect to see in the Sovereign Borders Bill. The government is selling the bill hard, claiming it’s ‘firm and fair’. But their claims can‘t be taken at face value: they need a broader understanding. Many lean on historical not current facts, or don’t tell the whole story, or use disingenuous language. 

1 − The asylum proposals

Flip the cards below to see why the proposals are problematic:

Proposed:

For the first time, HOW a person enters the UK will affect their claim

Why it's wrong

Asylum claims should be considered on merit, not method of arrival

Proposed:

'Illegal routes' to the UK must be replaced by 'official routes'

Why it's wrong

In law, there are NO ILLEGAL ROUTES if you're claiming asylum

Proposed:

Only those on resettlement schemes can stay permanently

Why it's wrong

VERY few get resettled, and only from certain places. And the UK scrapped its commitment

Proposed:

Non-resettled refugees will be regularly reassessed for removal

Why it's wrong

People will feel precarious, facing unbelievable stress and risking stigma

Proposed:

Deportations will be speeded up where asylum claims are refused

Why it's wrong

Many Home Office asylum decisions are wrong: 50% are overturned on appeal

2 − Government rhetoric that just doesn't make sense

Statement
“To properly control our borders we must address the challenge of illegal immigration too… through comprehensive reform of our asylum system.”

Except that…
How can reforming our asylum system address illegal immigration? The right to claim asylum is enshrined in international law. Asylum-seeking is NEVER illegal immigration. 

Statement
“If you illegally enter the UK via a safe country in which you could have claimed asylum, you are not seeking refuge from imminent peril”

Except that…
In law, you DON’T have to claim asylum in the first safe country. And if we only want to take those in immediate peril, why are we prioritising resettlement (which is only from safe countries)?

Statement
“[illegal routes are] deeply unfair as it advantages those with the means to pay traffickers over vulnerable people who cannot.”

Except that…
In law, there ARE no illegal routes. And ALL refugees are vulnerable. And using a trafficker is hardly an advantage.

Statement
“We will take steps to discourage asylum claims via illegal routes, as other countries such as Denmark have recently succeeded in doing.”

Except that…
Denmark has a stated intention to be a ‘zero-refugee state’ and is one of the most racist countries in Europe (YouGov). It has also started sending Syrians back to Syria. Is this our model? Also, the Home Office plans to deport ‘illegal asylum-seekers’ to Europe; needless to say, the EU is having none of it.

Statement
“Maintain our long-term commitment to resettle refugees” 
[and essentially make resettlement the only “safe and legal” route to asylum in the UK] 

Except that…
No one can apply for resettlement; they can only be selected. VERY few people are selected. Only families tend to come, not single people or couples. Resettlement doesn’t bring people in immediate peril; it brings people who have already fled to safe countries.

3 − Government claims that just don't stack up

Claim:

'The UK has a proud history of being open to the world and we're continuing that'

CAUTION

Years ago, yes. But these plans double down on Theresa May's 'hostile environment'

Claim:

'Since 2015, the UK has resettled almost 25,000 people seeking refuge'

CAUTION

Yes, but we've just SCRAPPED our national resettlement commitment

Claim:

'We've resettled more refugees than any other European country'

CAUTION

Many European countries have taken FAR more than us − just not by resettlement

Claim:

'We are the third highest contributor of overseas aid in the world'

CAUTION

We've just slashed our overseas aid budget by 30% every year

Claim:

'We're offering visas to over 5 million people in Hong Kong'

CAUTION

They won't be refugees, and they can only come if they can support themselves

4 − What we still don't know

  • Whether the prioritisation of resettlement means that no one will be able to come as an independent asylum-seeker
  • To what extent the government includes asylum-seekers when they say: “Those who prevail with claims having entered illegally will… be regularly reassessed for removal from the UK…” . However, the strong indication is that they DO mean asylum-seekers. How can they be removed, and where to?
  • If they do mean asylum-seekers, will they backdate it to anyone already here who didn’t come via a ‘legal route’ (even though there’s no such thing)?
  • If they include asylum-seekers when they say: “…having entered illegally [they] will have no recourse to public funds except in cases of destitution”, are they ending the (paltry) payment of £39.63 to live on? 

5 − Further reading

The Guardian – UN refugee agency hits out at Priti Patel’s plans for UK asylum overhaul

The Telegraph – Illegal migrants will be denied right to settle in UK even if granted asylum

ITV News – Patel says charities who criticise her should ‘think carefully about their language’

Track the Sovereign Borders Bill and #HostileEnvironment on Twitter