This is a report on the current situation with refugees, a topic which is causing a great deal of political heartache at present. We are grateful to group member Andrew for the work in compiling this.
Into November and Suella Braverman is back as Home Secretary, which will have implications for refugees and asylum seekers. The plan to send failed asylum seekers to Rwanda has been shelved (and the companies contacted to carry the deportees have all withdrawn or refused), but the Prime Minister has declared himself in favour of the plan. In his campaign to lead his party he also put forward a 10-point plan on immigration designed to increase the number of deportations. Possible new locations have been posited – Belize, Paraguay and Peru have been named, but all have declared themselves not to be discussing the matter. Hi Fly and Iberojet are still possible carriers but are under pressure to decline. The future of the scheme remains questionable, as the High Court has still to decide on its lawfulness.
There has been much debate about the numbers of Albanians arriving in the UK in recent months, and particularly about the number claiming to have been trafficked. The Home Office have argued that a) economic migrants have been using this as an excuse and b) Albania is not a state which has security issues. The Albanian Prime Minister has also attacked the UK government for denigrating his country, but it remains that a large percentage of Albanian claimants have been accepted as genuine. Discussions between the countries continue. It is worth noting that the countries most detainees assumed to be involved with trafficking are Albania, Eritrea and Iran.
The continuing arrival of refugees and asylum seekers on small boats remains in the news. With nearly 40,000 arrivals this year, the chief problem is processing the newcomers. Events at the Manston short term holding facility have been much reported on, but numbers now have dropped back towards a more ”normal” 1600 staying 24 hours, rather than 4000 detained for weeks. The facility is intended to process all arrivals, not just refugees. The Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration has been checking conditions here and at hotels used by the Home Office to house new arrivals, and concerns have been expressed that these are not fit to house unaccompanied children.
The IPPR say that the increase in numbers arriving on small boats (which was none in 2018!) is likely due to “a combination of increased securitisation among other routes (e.g. lorries), the UK’s withdrawal from the Dublin regulation and a “snowball effect”’. The Dublin Regulation made it possible to return arrivals to their first point of landing in the EU, but the UK can no longer employ the provision since Brexit.
On the last day of 2019, there were 307 individuals held in prisons under immigration powers. By the last day of 2020 this had increased to 519, and a year later it was 602. As of January 2022 that figure stood at 304, three times the amount it was in 2019.
For an overall perspective on numbers, it is worth noting that the UNHCR estimates the global number of refugees at 21.3 million, plus 4.6 million asylum seekers. 1 .4 million claims for asylum are pending, of which 0.5% are in the UK (for comparison, about half the number for Germany).
Over 90% of people referred to the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) from immigration detention are victims of trafficking, says a new report. The referrals into the NRM by ‘first responders’ included survivors of slavery, trafficking and torture. Rule 34 stipulates that every detained person must have a mental and physical examination within 24 hours of admission to an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) – however, survivors have often been overlooked
The Home Office routinely detains people who are subject to immigration control, the majority of whom are released. However, under the Home Office Detention Centre rules, a person has to undergo screening to be ‘fit’ for detention, as well as to identify survivors of trafficking and modern slavery.
A report by the Helen Bamber Foundation, a charity that helps survivors of trafficking and torture, found that survivors are detained either after imprisonment, with many having being convicted for offences they were forced to commit by their traffickers, and/or because they do not have permission to remain in the UK. Many survivors of trafficking are detained for removal after being picked up during raids on brothels, nail bars and cannabis farms.
The biggest problem with asylum seekers, however, is still the delay in processing arrivals. As a measure of the extent of the backlog, on the last day of 2019, there were 307 individuals held in prisons under immigration powers. By the last day of 2020 this had increased to 519, and a year later it was 602. As of January 2022 that figure stood at 304, three times the amount it was in 2019. In terms of delays in the system, Home Office figures show that in 2015 80% of cases were decided within 6 months. By 2018, this had fallen to 56% and by 2022 to 7%. 96% of 2021 arrivals have not yet got an assessment.
Other continuing issues include extending the offer to Ukrainian applicants for refugee status (very few are claiming asylum status) for another year. 140,000 visas have been issued so far, just under half the total (Hong Kong accounts for another quarter).
Amnesty is planning to ring fence much of its income before the end of the year to support its campaign in Ukraine. This is explained in the monthly newsletter.