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Suzanne’s suggestions when responding to the “NEW PLAN FOR IMMIGRATION” consultation by 6th MAY

May 4, 2021 3:01 PM
By Suzanne

IF YOU CAN ONLY DO ONE THING THEN PLEASE FILL IN Q1 AS "STRONGLY DISAGREE"

SAFE ROUTES FOR UNACCOMPANIED CHILDREN

Q 10 The government's policy confuses safe and legal routes for unaccompanied children seeking asylum to join family in the UK with immigration rules that are not designed or intended for this purpose.

  • This confusion applies equally to children who are in the EU and children who are outside the EU. Previously, UK membership of the EU provided a possible safe and legal route for unaccompanied children in the EU to join family members in the UK and claim asylum here with their family.
  • The government refers to immigration rules that allow some children to join parents or other family members in the UK. But the rules do not permit this for the purpose of seeking asylum.
  • The proposals make no provision for people who currently make dangerous journeys to claim asylum in the UK. The government's policy position generally remains that nobody can claim asylum in the UK unless they get here first; and its rules make no provision to permit someone to travel to the UK for the purpose of making such a claim.
  • The government highlights those permitted to come to the UK safely and legally via refugee family reunion visas, but its proposals would withdraw this possibility from many people. The proposals expressly intend to avoid or delay granting asylum to many refugees in the UK. Their family members will, therefore, only be able to reunite with them if they rely on dangerous journeys and smugglers.

SAFE ROUTES AND FAMILY REUNION

Q 14

The absence of safe and legal routes into Europe to seek asylum inevitably leads to individuals fleeing their countries by themselves, and subsequently wishing to be reunited with their families whom they had left behind. Seekers of Sanctuary granted asylum in the UK have a legal right under both UK and humanitarian law to sponsor their close family to come and live here. But the definition of "close family" is very restrictive and the processes are disproportionately complex. Although the rules have the capacity to be flexible in cases with compassionate and compelling circumstances, this happens increasingly rarely. In September 2018 the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration reiterated his concerns about the effectiveness of the decision-making processes.

We need to extend the definition of family member in relation to the applicant seeking reunification (who may be the sponsor or the family member applying to join the sponsor) to incorporate their spouse, their civil or unmarried partner, their children aged under 18, their grandchildren under 18, their unmarried child aged 18 or over, their parent, their sibling under the age of 18, their niece or nephew under the age of 18 or any other dependent relative not listed here.

Agree that for applicants who are under the age of 18 and neither of whose parents is known to be alive or able to reach the United Kingdom, a family member also means an aunt or uncle.

Recognise as eligible family members relatives of half-blood as well as full blood.

Have a presumption in favour of family reunification except in those rare cases where it is not in the interests of the child, and seek to improve the arrangements where unification is deemed to be interests of the child.

There should be established a dedicated unit for dealing with asylum applications (including for family reunion) which will work with the Department for International Development, with the aim of improving the speed and quality of decision-making without the threat of any political interference. We would invest heavily in the recruitment, training and development, including the emotional intelligence, of staff so that they can process applications quickly and accurately.

  • Move towards a caseworker model that helps applicants navigate the system.
  • Ensure an effective review and arbitration process to allow any decision apparently taken outside the rules to be rectified before reaching appeal.
  • Restore the arrangements for legal aid for seekers of sanctuary that existed before the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) Act 2012.

GENERAL POINTS.

Q 45

OVERALL

CONSULTATION PROCESS

Not one question in the official consultation document asks people about their personal experiences of fleeing persecution or seeking safety in the UK. And the inaccessible process will make it more difficult for many of the most important voices of all to be heard. This is not a process that genuinely wants to listen or has any interest in being challenged or changing its approach.

"GOOD" AND "BAD" ASYLUM SEEKERS

There should not be a differentiated approach to asylum claims, either while people are waiting for a decision to be made or once status is granted. Everyone who claims asylum in the UK should be able to live in safety and dignity and be supported to rebuild their lives. A person's route of entry to the country has no bearing on their need for protection or their rights to fair treatment.

A differentiated approach to asylum claims will only cause people in the asylum system to wait longer for a decision while housed in harmful, inappropriate accommodation, and will prevent people granted status from getting on with rebuilding their lives.

There is no obligation under the Refugee Convention to claim asylum in the safe first country someone reaches; family, community, and language ties may mean for some people the UK is where they judge they will be best-placed to seek sanctuary and rebuild their lives.

Rapid removal relies on reciprocal agreements which are not yet agreed and few countries are likely to agree to; in effect, this will result in people being warehoused for 6 months, just creating longer delays in people's cases being decided.

RECEPTION CENTRES

The proposed use of reception centres is an alarming and extremely concerning direction of travel for asylum accommodation. The use of former MOD sites and hotels has shown beyond doubt how damaging living in institutional accommodation is for people seeking asylum. Beyond the UK, this type of institutional provision has been deeply problematic; for example, Direct Provision in Ireland now being wound down. Rather than expanding the use of harmful institutional accommodation, the government should be making a full commitment to housing people seeking asylum in communities and urgently addressing the long-standing structural issues in the management and monitoring of contracted provision.

TEMPORARY STATUS

A new temporary protection status will create yet more barriers to people being able to rebuild their lives, creating a new group of people subject to NRPF and vulnerable to destitution, and preventing people from reuniting with their families.

OFFSHORE

Proposals for 'offshoring' have been around for decades and have always proved unworkable. The use of offshoring by Australia has resulted in widespread breaches of human rights.

APPEALS

I note on page 9 that it shows up the reality of what is happening in the appeals system. Whilst there are frequent references to "unmeritorious" and "time wasting" appeals, it is clear from the Government's own figures that many of the appeals are allowed, 43% in fact. This means that nearly half of the decisions made are proved to be wrong. Note that is appeals made, there are those who would appeal if they knew that they could but have returned to their home country to danger, or were not able to access the legal advice needed for making an appeal.

There needs to be a radical overhaul of the decision making process which would not only save huge amounts of distress and uncertainty for those making the appeals, but would actually save the Government money if it were "right first time".

BETTER WAYS OF DECiSION MAKING

The following would make a huge difference to the decision making process and should be considered for implementation:

Review and reform all aspects of the current asylum rules and operations that offend basic

measures of fairness and justice. The culture of disbelief that affects all people applying for asylum should be abandoned

Speed up processing asylum claims whilst ensuring careful consideration of all evidence and

provision of legal advice;

  • Make available better interpretation and translation services at each stage, ensuring more decisions are right first time and reducing the cost, number of appeals and stress;  Establish a new dedicated unit for asylum applications, independent of central Government, to improve speed and quality of decision-making, ensuring better decisions, right first time;
  • Take political influence out of decision-making on applications for visas and sanctuary;
  • Provide better training for staff, particularly those dealing directly with more vulnerable groups e.g. victims of torture or trafficking, mentally ill people, pregnant women, children & LGBT+ people;
  • Review and reform all aspects of current asylum rules and operations, with an initial focus on how the rules affect LGBT+ applicants, child-led family reunification applications and those who fled because of their religious or non-religious beliefs, or who are at risk if returned because they have since converted to another faith or belief. Never, in any circumstances, refuse an LGBT+ applicant on the basis that they could be discreet. Have a presumption in favour of family reunification except in those rare cases where it is not in the interests of the child;
  • Ensure that victims of trafficking are supported so that they can give evidence against their traffickers and never be returned against their will to their country of origin, where their traffickers would have access to them all over again;

REMOVALS

Although there is no mention as to how people with unsuccessful claims would be removed to their country of origin, I strongly urge that you would only do so with humanity, when, at the end of all the processes, people have been dealt with justly, fairly and with compassion, following the National Independent Commission on Enforced Removals recommendations on how removals should take place, seeking to keep families together, allowing people to exhaust appeals in-country and securing safe destinations for people to go to.

HUMANITARIAN VISAS

Humanitarian visas should be considered. Seekers of sanctuary could approach a UK consulate in their country of origin, in neighbouring countries, or a border post at a channel crossing, and apply for a Humanitarian Visa which would enable them to come to the UK safely and legally, where their asylum application would be fully assessed. Humanitarian Visas would provide nothing less than a lifeline for refugees, enabling them to safely and legally travel to the UK, and get the protection they deserve, avoiding dangerous journeys, exploitative traffickers, human rights violations, and ultimately needless and avoidable loss of life. For refugees, these visas are required to uphold the fundamental principle to seek and claim asylum.

"GOOD FAITH"
A "Good faith" requirement is mentioned, which seems to be implying that solicitors may collude with lies. This is simply not the case- solicitors and caseworkers can be struck off for allowing the client to lie and misrepresenting them. Solicitors/case workers know that if a client asks them to lie, then they have to withdraw from the case. Also, the implication of 'collusion' would imply that there would be a benefit for this supposed collusion- where none exists- there would be nothing to be gained from that. This aspect, suggested by the HO is a further example of political rhetoric, playing to the tabloid gallery.

It is disingenuous to suggest that applicants and their representatives would lie, when I have a record of 10 times that the courts have found the Home Secretary guilty.

DESTITUTION

We object wholeheartedly to the proposed changes to asylum support eligibility which will increase homelessness and poverty amongst people seeking refugee protection, including children. For years, enforced destitution has been part of the Home Office's approach to force people to return to their country of origin following a refusal of asylum. However, numerous reports have not only highlighted the inhumanity of this approach, but equally the fact that 'hostile environment' measures are not effective even on the Government's own terms.

Enforced homelessness and poverty should never be a built-in feature of the UK's asylum system; our asylum system should be designed to protect, not to punish.