Report on refugee and asylum issues in the UK
The change of Prime Minister this month has led to changes at the Home Office. The new minister, Suella Braverman, will have initially to deal with the question of sending asylum seekers to Rwanda, the issue of which is still under judicial review. The hearings have started this week. The new Prime Minister, Liz Truss has declared her support for the plan, indeed suggesting its extension to other countries. An aide told the Mail on Sunday: “She’s determined to see the Rwanda policy through to full implementation as well as exploring other countries where we can work on similar partnerships.” It would not seem likely that the new Home Secretary will mark much of a change from her predecessor.
Despite the legal challenge, the government plans to deport 19 people to Rwanda in the coming days. Information shared by charities indicates that six were trafficked or tortured, including one who was detained and beaten for eight weeks at a warehouse in the Libyan Desert.
Medical Justice have this week published “Who’s Paying The Price?: The Human Cost Of The Rwanda Scheme”, a comprehensive analysis of people targeted for removal to Rwanda which details medical evidence of the harm inflicted on them. The charity says: “The policy is damaging in general for anyone, acutely so for such vulnerable torture and trafficking survivors who are already paying a high human cost even before any flights have taken off to Rwanda.”
As one of the side issues to the debate, the charity Freedom from Torture is directing public attention on to the airlines who are or are intending to facilitate the flights.
Another central element of the immigration plan – the setting up of new processing centres for asylum seekers – also appears to have stalled after the Ministry of Defence admitted to the Observer that, despite evaluating 100 different sites for the Home Office since January, it has yet to publicly identify a new one that might be used. The only site named so far as “asylum accommodation” – in Linton-on-Ouse, Yorkshire – was abandoned after the Home Office failed to move any asylum seekers there and the MoD withdrew from the plan.
The Observer has revealed that the government is considering reintroducing its notorious refugee pushback policy for use against small boats crossing the Channel. Five months ago, after the heavily criticised policy was officially withdrawn by ministers, documents released under freedom of information laws suggest the government is reconsidering the tactic that has been blamed for drownings in Greece.
The numbers arriving in the country by boat continues to grow, to over 25,000 this year, given the good weather. 3,733 people crossed the Channel during the week to 28 August – twice as many for all of 2019.
What has been notable has been the large number of acceptances by the Home Office of asylum seekers’ claims. New rules on inadmissibility have added to the time taken to process asylum seekers, but the proportion of acceptances in the long term remains high.
A large number of Albanians has, however been returned on the grounds that the country Is safe. The government has been endeavouring to set up returnee agreements with other countries to facilitate repatriation; at present they have 5, the latest of which is with Pakistan.
By comparison with other European nations, the total number of asylum applications in the UK since 2012 has been 386,000, the 6th largest in Europe.
Outside of the refugee influx, more work visas have been issued to arrivals from India than any other nation (Ukraine is the next largest).
The Afghan emergency last year resulted in 16,000 nationals being brought over here. Of these, 9000 are still living in hotel accommodation.
The total number of Ukrainian refugees now in the UK is 115,000. Visas issued under the Family and Sponsorship schemes total 177,000. For comparison, Germany has so far taken in 971,000 Ukrainians. The UK government has, however, indicated that host households will have their “thank you” payments doubled to £700 per month.
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