The temperature surrounding immigration and asylum has risen this month with yet more legislation is proposed. We are grateful for group member Andrew for the preparation of this report.
Now we have the detail of the new legislation proposed by the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary designed to deal with the small boats issue “once and for all”, and we can also review some of the latest figures on immigration to emerge.
As expected, the main thrust of the new Illegal (sic) Migration Bill is to state that migrants arriving by small boats will be detained and deported to their home country (though there appear to be no return agreements in place), or, if not safe, to a third country e.g. Rwanda, to be processed. There will also be a cap on the numbers to be taken in by “safe and legal” routes. Those removed after processing will not be allowed to re-enter, resettle, or seek British citizenship at any future date.
The issue of the legality of the proposed legislation is based around the UK’s being a signatory to the European Convention on Human Rights (and a member of the court thereof). The Home Secretary believes that Article 19(1(b)) of the Human Rights Act allows a level of circumvention:
“The Home Secretary, the Rt Hon Suella Braverman KC MP, has made the following statement under section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998: “I am unable to make a statement that, in my view, the provisions of the Illegal Migration Bill are compatible with Convention rights, but the Government nevertheless wishes the House to proceed with the Bill.” A statement under section 19(1)(b) of the Human Rights Act 1998 does not mean that the provisions in the Bill are incompatible with the Convention rights. The Government is satisfied that the provisions of the Bill are capable of being applied compatibly with those rights.”
Comments from organisations with an interest in the area have mostly been hostile. For example, this is from Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, Steve Valdez-Symonds:
“Attempting to disqualify people’s asylum claims en masse regardless of the strength of their case is a shocking new low for the government.
“There is nothing fair, humane or even practical in this plan, and it’s frankly chilling to see ministers trying to remove human rights protections for group of people whom they’ve chosen to scapegoat for their own failures …
“Ministers need to focus on the real issue – which is the urgent need to fairly and efficiently decide asylum claims while urgently introducing accessible schemes, so people seeking asylum do not have to rely on people smugglers and dangerous journeys.
“Clearly we do not know how this will proceed, either through parliament or the courts, although previous attempts along similar lines have not got very far. It seems likely that the proposed act will not come into force for many months or even years.
“It is worth noting, though, that the government frequently refers to “abuses“ of the human rights law by lawyers representing asylum seekers, which may result in further legislation. Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has suggested that some such lawyers are being “monitored.””
It is also worth noting that in 2021, 12,838 Rwandans applied for asylum in other countries.
Arrivals by boat last year included more Albanians and Afghans and fewer Iranians than previously.
On Afghanistan, 22 people were settled in the UK under Pathway 2, and 38 by other means (Pathway 1 appears to be non-functioning). Of those arriving by boats most have been granted leave to stay (Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea and Sudan all have acceptance rates over 95%).
Backlog of asylum cases now 160,000
The backlog of asylum cases waiting for decisions has now reached 160,000, despite increased numbers of staff at the Home Office. The total number of decisions made in 2022 was 19,000.
As a comparison with other European states, up to September 2022, the UK had received 80,000 applications for asylum status; Spain had received 130,000, France 180,000 and Germany 300,000.
Europe as a whole had its highest level of immigration since the crisis year of 2016. Some states have responded by increasing the numbers of staff processing claims (Germany by 5 times) and by reducing the backlog (France by a third). In the UK, not only is the backlog increasing but the productivity of staff is going down.
In the case of Shamima Begum, the Upper Tribunal has stated that she was a victim of trafficking, but that it is still legal to remove her British nationality.
It is interesting to note that only 6% of small boat arrivals are referred for trafficking checks.
It was noted this month that up to a third of the Overseas Aid budget has been reallocated to housing refugees.
Finally – somewhat under the radar – the Court of Appeal has upheld the ruling that asylum seekers can be prosecuted for arriving in the UK without valid entry clearance or assisting unlawful immigration. This follows last years’ Nationality and Immigration Act and will clearly have major repercussions.