This is the monthly report on the refugee situation in the UK thanks to group member Andrew for producing it. Immigration and refugees continues to generate fierce debate in the UK particularly the problem of people arriving by boat having crossed the Channel.
In his speech in the New Year, the Prime Minister declared his intention, among other things, to resolve the issue of small boats crossing the Channel by making it illegal to arrive by such means and to immediately arrest and deport anyone doing so. This proposal, if made into law, will undoubtedly meet opposition from the European Court of Human Rights, not to mention the House of Lords. The year’s total of boat arrivals ran up to 45,000.
The High Court in December declared the proposed removal of asylum seekers to Rwanda to be lawful. The matter is now under appeal, to be decided by the end of this month (January). The ECHR’s original objection to the policy under Article 3 of the Convention may be reactivated once the appeal is over.
The PM also pledged in his speech to abolish the backlog of asylum cases by the end of the year. The number of decision makers at the Home Office is planning to be quadrupled to 2,400 in pursuit of this aim. The biggest problem he may face, though, is that the Home Office is presently more prone to accept claims than to reject them, obviating the PM’s desire to remove most of the applicants.
Immigration from Albania has been in the news due to a spike in the numbers. While the government maintains that the country is safe to return arrivals to (and the Albanian government agrees!), the issue of “blood feuds” has been touted as one of the reasons for the increase. The government’s view is that there is sufficient protection in Albania for potential victims.
This month marks the anniversary of the establishment of the Afghan Citizens Resettlement Scheme, under which legal routes to settlement in the UK were to be offered. Three pathways were established, 1 for people already here, 2 for those referred by the UNHCR and 3 for those who had worked for the UK. Some 5,000 arrivals were planned for the first year, 20,000 in total. The latest available figures indicate that 6,300 have been given indefinite leave to remain (i.e. pathway 1), four have arrived by pathway 2 and none by pathway 3. Thanks to Caroline Lucas and File on 4 for pointing this up.
The Windrush scandal, the subsequent review made various suggestions, among which was the creation of a Migrants’ Commissioner. It is believed that the Home Secretary is minded to abandon this plan, and also to forego planned extension to the powers of the independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration.
Finally, in a ruling over the Christmas period, the High Court ordered the Home Secretary to increase the weekly support rate for asylum seekers to £45. This was unusual in that the judge used the advice from civil servants to make a mandatory order. There has been no sign that the Home Secretary is likely to appeal.