The current refugee situation

UPDATE: 11 June 2022: The court has ruled in favour of the government on Friday so the deportations to Rwanda can go ahead. There is an appeal on Monday.

With the completion of the passage of the Nationality and Borders Bill into law, most of the concentration this month has been on the plans for offshoring failed asylum seekers to Rwanda. However, it is worth noting that the provisions of the Bill do not all come into force immediately, as it will be a couple of months before some changes to immigration rules can be completed, and some changes are dependent on when “commencement orders” are made. On 28th June about a third of the provisions will become live; they include the two-tier refugee status, inadmissibility and third country removal rules at the heart of the Act; the new or toughened criminal offences in section 40; and the power to require people who don’t need a UK visa to get an electronic travel authorisation.

On Rwanda, legal representation has been made against the lawfulness of the action, by a group of legal and charitable organisations, plus the civil service trade union. The plan remains to send the first claimants to Africa on the 14th June.

The government website states: The government’s world-leading Migration and Economic Development Partnership with Rwanda has taken its final administrative step, as the Home Office has begun issuing formal removal direction letters to those who are set to go to Rwanda where they will be able to rebuild their lives in safety.

The Home Office itself, in its assessment of the plan, noted problems in several areas, such as a lack of staff and training, the independence of the appeals process, shortage of legal advice and risks to LGBTQ+ refugees. They note that Rwanda currently holds 127,000 refugees mostly from the DRC. It is also noteworthy that Whitehall set up a body to review the accuracy of official documents on Rwanda, but this may be a victim of proposed civil service cuts.

Of those who have been informed of their imminent departure, 10 people have withdrawn their applications to stay, which may count as a success for the policy… The others are presently in detention, despite the Home Office saying it would issue notices of intent while seekers were living in the community. It has also been noted that a recently-arrived boatload of mainly Sudanese refugees have been detained; they had not been assisted by people smugglers in their journey.

More positively, amendments to the regulations on private lives will allow young migrants 15 years lawful  residence rather than the 10 years for older migrants, and children born in the UK can apply for residence when they have been here for 7 years, rather than receiving a 2 ½ year visa.

Some statistics:

Between September 2020 and September 2021:

  • 203 failed asylum seekers were sent home. 737 left voluntarily. These figures compare with some 20,000 in 2005, and are indicative of the relatively high success rates for applicants currently. However, delays in processing have resulted in a record 109,000 applicants awaiting a decision as of March 2022.
  • About 75% of applicants for asylum are successful; since leaving the EU and the “Dublin agreement”, the UK has identified some 13,000 cases where the migrant could be returned to another EU country, but has only actually “returned” 75.
  • In 2021 843,538 visas were issued to non-EU migrants (many of them student visas, and a large number from Hong Kong and Afghanistan). Relatedly, of seasonal work visas issued, interestingly 67% were to Ukrainians (8% Russians). This year there is a shortage of up to 75% as a result (10,000 extra visas have been promised but nothing seems to have resulted).

The suggestion that asylum seekers should be sent to a facility at Linton-on-Ouse is being opposed by the local inhabitants, who have pointed out that there is no legal aid facility in the area.

The number of boat people arriving across the Channel remain high this year, believed to be currently approaching 10,000. A quarter of the arrivals are from Afghanistan, despite the existence of the ACRS scheme.

On the Ukrainian front, latest figures indicate that 136,000 applications for visas have been made, 115,000 received and 65,000 migrants have arrived. This works out at 10 per 10,000 population. Germany’s equivalent figure is 87 per 10,000 population.

Finally, a comment from Twitter:

Suicidal client in immigration detention has been told they are unable to provide counselling and instead has been sent a trauma handout pack in English (language he cannot understand). Suggestions include “try a new haircut” and “play an instrument.”

Andrew Hemming

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