The report for February/January 2023 thanks to group member Andrew for the work on this post.
As we await yet another immigration bill (this time designed to send anyone arriving here “illegally” on their way immediately) let us consider what legal means of arrival still exist.
The Johnson government committed the government to providing safe and legal routes of entry as part of a broader programme of asylum reforms outlined in its New Plan for Immigration policy statement (March 2021). It wanted fewer people to come to the UK as asylum seekers and more to come through safe and legal routes.
A December 2022 statement by the Prime Minister went further. Rishi Sunak announced that the Government now intends to make further legislative changes so that “the only way to come to the UK for asylum will be though safe and legal routes”. He said that the Government would create additional legal routes “as we get a grip on illegal migration” and would introduce an annual quota for refugee resettlement.
Refugee rights campaigners have previously called for an annual target for refugee resettlement. But they have also cautioned that safe and legal routes are not available to everyone who needs protection. Consequently, they want them to be provided alongside an accessible in-country asylum system.
The other continuing issue about immigration is the endeavour by the government to prevent legal stays to the proposed deportation policy. Much of the debate has centred on possible appeals to the European Court of Human Rights, which is referred to as a “foreign court”, but is actually an international body on which the UK is represented. The Home Secretary is keen to leave the ECHR in the event of dispute, putting the UK in a class with Russia and Belarus. There is opposition to the possibility of this happening, not only in the legal profession but also in the Conservative Party. Also, the High Court has now allowed appeals against their finding in favour of the government over the legality of the Rwanda plan to go ahead.
Elsewhere, the head of the Windrush inquiry has expressed disappointment after the home secretary confirmed the government was dropping three key commitments made in the wake of the scandal. The Home Secretary Suella Braverman, told MPs she would not proceed with the changes, including establishing a migrants’ commissioner. They were put forward in the report into the wrongful deportation of UK citizens of Caribbean descent. Wendy Williams said “crucial” recommendations had been scrapped.
Ms Williams’s formal inquiry examined how the Windrush scandal unfolded at the Home Office – when British residents, many of whom had arrived in their youth from Caribbean countries in the 1950s and 60s, – were erroneously classified as immigrants living in the UK illegally. In a written statement in the House of Commons, Ms Braverman insisted the Home Office was looking to “shift culture and subject ourselves to scrutiny”. But she confirmed that plans to beef up the powers of the immigration watchdog; set up a new national migrants advocate; and run reconciliation events with Windrush families would be axed.
The government plans to end providing accommodation for Afghan refugees by the end of the year. Currently, 9000 Afghans are living in hotels.
The stories above have contributed to Human Rights Watch, in its annual report, declaring that the actions of the UK government breach domestic human rights obligations and undermine international human rights standards.
Debate about the right to work for asylum seekers has become more prominent lately. Canada allows claimants to work straight away, Germany after 3 months, compared to the UK’s 1 year if the claimant is still waiting a decision.
Asylum support cost in 2022 was £898 million; £5.6 million a day was spent on hotel accommodation.
Final fact: for those applying for visas for partners to come to the UK the cost of the process has been calculated at £8,110 over 5 years and £13,326 over 10 years, not counting lawyers’ fees. It has been suggested that this money could have been spent into the economy rather than the government’s coffers.