Far from fair

Don’t like the Government’s new plan for immigration? Take action now!

On 23 March 2021 home secretary, Priti Patel, announced an overhaul of the UK asylum system.

She has badged this announcement as ‘fair’, but the reality is anything but.

You can take action by:

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Template Letter

Dear [Your MP’s name here]

New Plan for Immigration 

I am writing regarding the New Plan for Immigration announced on 23 March 2021.  This is particularly important to me because [I have volunteered with refugees in Calais/ volunteered with asylum seekers in the UK/ regularly donated to and supported refugee causes / followed the development of the refugee crisis closely for some years].
*delete as appropriate

I should like you to consider that [cut and paste the paragraphs from the text below that mean the most to you].

I would be very interested in hearing from you with regards to your views on this matter and what you might be able to do about it.

Thank you in anticipation of your help.

Yours sincerely,
[Your name here]

Priti Patel’s overhaul of the UK immigration system is anything but fair

On 23 March 2021 home secretary, Priti Patel, announced an overhaul of the UK asylum system.

She has badged this announcement as ‘fair’, but the reality is anything but.

For the first time, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses; the Government’s proposed amendments suggest that only those who arrive via a ‘legal’ route should be helped.

But the thing is, less than 1% of the world’s refugees get chosen for resettlement schemes, which are the main ‘legal’ route. Should the rest just stay and accept their fate? Or should they do everything in their power to help themselves and their family? I know what I’d do.

Being a refugee means you’re not going to get a visa to travel. That’s the problem with oppressive regimes – they don’t do things by the book. So, it’s not really fair to say that because a desperate refugee travels ‘illegally’ they don’t deserve our help. And it’s not fair that the cornerstone of Britain’s new plan for asylum is to deny help to desperate people who have no other way to travel.

Just because someone pays a people smuggler it does not mean that they are not in genuine need of asylum – quite the opposite is true; people in desperate need do whatever they can to survive.

One thing that refugees all know is that life is not fair. Being a refugee is not who you are, it is something that happens to you.  Imagine a man who loses his child in a house fire or a woman disabled in a car crash.  These things are not their fault – they are simply bad things that happened to them and then, in a moment, their lives have been changed forever. This is exactly what it means to be a refugee.  It’s not ‘fair’ in any way.

In Calais we work with refugees who have become our friends: the sweet boy who left home at 13 when his parents were killed; the quiet man who was tortured so horribly in Iraq; the woman who brought two tiny children here on her own – God knows how. They laugh with us despite their dire circumstances, and it makes us respect the sheer force of human spirit. But at night they will be in small boats battling big waves, fighting for their lives just for the chance to be safe. It’s not people smugglers who make them do this. It’s this Government that fails to give them another way – a safe way to claim UK asylum, without having to risk their lives.

Passing through a safe country does not stop you from being a refugee, but the Government is suggesting we refuse to give sanctuary to any refugees who have travelled through Europe. But why shouldn’t the UK offer sanctuary to refugees who have escaped this way? British people are no less compassionate, we do not care any less about our fellow human beings than our European neighbours.

The UK already takes far fewer refugees than Germany, France or Spain. Throughout history refugees and immigrants have enriched the societies they join, and migrants fill skills gaps, particularly in the NHS. We should be proud and confident about helping those in need – and acknowledge that it’s not a one-way street; there are many ways a country can benefit from to immigration.

This last year has been eye-opening. While this Government has become more hostile toward refugees who want to make the UK their home, we have watched ordinary people rise up and support them a hundred practical ways. Volunteers have provided clothes, shoes and food to people who have nothing. They have helped people seeking asylum to register with doctors or find lawyers. They have shown them how to navigate public transport and have been a friendly face for those who are scared and alone. These are just a handful of examples that prove that people in this country do not want to turn their back on refugees.

The right approach when refugees arrive on our shores is to roll up our sleeves and do what we can to help, with policy that should focus on what our country can do to offer safety to those in desperate need. Criminalising, dividing and persecuting refugees will never solve the problem.

This Government’s focus on so-called ‘illegal travel’ is not just misleading, but dangerous and damaging to our society as a whole. When ministers talk about refugees using words such as ‘illegal’ and ‘criminal’ it creates a negative association in people’s minds – a harmful consequence, particularly when refugees are already marginalised.

I am saddened and disturbed to see our leaders creating division in our communities.  We need leaders who unite us. We need leaders who treat refugees with compassion and respect; they are people who have simply had the misfortune to be born in the wrong place.

It’s certainly not fair that ordinary people have to pick up the pieces when the Government chooses to turn its back on those in desperate need.

An overview of the Government’s proposed plans

People who arrive via resettlement schemes (the main ‘legal’ route)

  • Granted indefinite leave to remain
  • Given support with integration
  • Given family reunion rights

People who arrive Irregularly – e.g. boats, lorries

  • Placed in reception centres – with asylum claims and appeals processed onsite
  • Government will try to send to another safe country
  • If successful with UK application will only get ‘temporary’ protection (30 months)
  • Little access to welfare benefits
  • Options have been kept open to develop offshore asylum processing

Other points

  • Proposed new stricter system for age assessments
  • A ‘one stop shop’ process whereby if you don’t set out all your evidence at the beginning of the process it may not be taken into account/li>
  • Introducing new powers to stop and redirect boats out of UK waters if they suspect they are facilitating illegal entry to UK.
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