New migrant measures treat asylum seekers like criminals, campaigners say

The five-point plan, which includes ramping up immigration raids and housing migrants in disused holiday parks, was described as ‘deeply disturbing’.

Luke O'Reilly
Tuesday 13 December 2022 15:13 GMT
The five point plan was described as ‘deeply disturbing’ (Gareth Fuller/PA)
The five point plan was described as ‘deeply disturbing’ (Gareth Fuller/PA) (PA Wire)

Human rights organisations have accused the Government of treating asylum seekers like criminals, following the announcement of a string of new measures to tackle the migrant crisis.

Therapy charity Freedom From Torture said the new policies, announced by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak on Tuesday, risked sending refugees back to “unimaginable horrors”.

The five-point plan, which includes ramping up immigration raids and housing asylum seekers in disused holiday parks and surplus military sites, was also described as “unworkable” and “deeply disturbing” by campaigners.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, Amnesty International UK’s refugee and migrant rights director, said that Mr Sunak’s Government has “wrecked” the asylum system.

“The Prime Minister’s statement on asylum makes clear that he either doesn’t have a clue or frankly does not care,” he said.

“Sunak speaks of fairness – yet his Government has wrecked the UK’s asylum system, doing significant harm to thousands of vulnerable people for no reason other than an attempt to avoid the responsibilities he expects other countries to take.

Fairness means acting on our legal responsibilities, not shamelessly seeking to shirk them. It means respecting people’s rights and recognising their needs, not demonising people to excuse the cruel injustices the Government is doing to them.”

He added: “The announcement today is littered with errors of both law and fact, and if acted upon will make an already disastrous situation created by Sunak’s Government’s policies more harmful to people fleeing conflict and persecution while continuing to profit smugglers, traffickers and other abusers.

“Instead of scapegoating people seeking asylum, we urgently need the Government to completely overhaul its policy, cancel the Rwanda deal, put in place safe routes so fewer desperate people risk their lives and focus on fairly and efficiently deciding the asylum claims the UK receives.”

Enver Solomon, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: “Without safe routes they have no choice but to take dangerous journeys.

“The Prime Minister failed to set out any concrete plans to expand these routes through a resettlement programme or an expansion in family reunion visas.

“Instead this Government wants to treat people who come to the UK in search of safety as illegal criminals.

“This is deeply disturbing, flies in the face of international law and the UK’s commitment as a signatory of the UN Convention on Refugees to give a fair hearing to people who come here in search of safety and protection .

“Many people from Albania face real danger and persecution – we must not turn our backs on them or any other nationality seeking asylum.”

Sile Reynolds, head of asylum advocacy at Freedom From Torture, said: “The backlog in asylum decision making is an inexcusable administrative failure but instead of taking the opportunity to fast-track grants for clearly well-founded claims to clear the backlog, the Prime Minister is recycling unethical and unworkable gimmicks.

“Fast-tracking refusals and removals based solely on nationality or method of arrival is a dangerous, one-size fits all repackaging of a policy that risks breaching our international obligations to protect refugees.”

She added that it was “crucial” that all claimants are given adequate legal advice to ensure nobody is returned to face torture and death due to “bad decision-making”.

“The rapid removal of asylum seekers, in the absence of adequate vulnerability screening, quality legal advice and access to appeal will risk sending refugees back to unimaginable horrors.

“As we know from our work with torture survivors, signs of persecution can often be hidden, complex and difficult to identify.

“It is crucial that all claimants receive individualised assessments and are given adequate legal advice and access to appeal to ensure nobody is returned to face torture or even death due to bad decision-making.”

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