It’s understood that the former Home Secretary, Priti Patel, had in her office a whiteboard setting out the priorities of the department, with Windrush very close to the bottom. And her time in charge of the Home Office made it abundantly clear that her primary concerns, rather than providing any meaningful solutions to the problems plaguing the asylum system, were to further vilify and punish people seeking asylum. As the new Home Secretary Suella Braverman takes post, at this moment of national change, we urge her to reconsider the priorities of the department.

Now is the time to seize the mantle and lay waste to the demonising of refugees, move away from the criminalisation of those fleeing serious harm and to set about righting the wrongs of previous Home Secretaries. At GMIAU, along with many others in our sector, we have decades of experience supporting people in the daily reality of navigating the asylum and immigration systems.

Here are two of our proposed priorities:

1. Windrush Compensation Scheme

  • deal with claims quickly and fairly;
  • improve the quality of decision making;
  • allow access to Legal Aid and raise awareness so those who were impacted know they are able to claim and have legal support to do so;
  • remove the scheme from the Home Office;
  • compensate for the real-life value of loss, recognising the true losses experienced by the individual outside the rigid Home Office framework, taking into account factors such as loss of pensions and savings; and
  • introduce an independent appeal process – to specialist judges.

2. Reform the asylum system:

  • Properly train and retain decision makers;
  • Commit to a service standard of no more than 6 months to determine claims;
  • Treat asylum seekers fairly and humanely;
  • Limit time spent in hotels and ensure that all accommodation provided is clean and safe
  • Allow asylum seekers the right to work while they are waiting for a decision on their claim;
  • Increase rates of NASS support;
  • Scrap the Rwanda plan;
  • Create safe and legal routes to ensure no one has a dangerous journey to safety;
  • Increase ways for families to be reunited;
  • Ensure there are accessible pathways to settlement for all; and
  • Treat all those in need of international protection the same, regardless of nationality or method of entry, in accordance with the Refugee Convention.

The Anti-Refugee Laws introduced in the last year will do nothing to address the failures of the asylum system and are directed purely at making life miserable for those seeking safety in this country. We agree that reform is necessary but we ask the new Home Secretary to end the performative cruelty and implement a new plan that is fair and humane, and which will actually tackle the problems with the current system. With Priti Patel no longer in the Home Office there is an opportunity to bring about real change:  to concentrate on how to best support people once they have arrived in the UK, to tackle the backlog and delays while ensuring that decision makers do focus on the face behind the case and to finally end the scapegoating of those in need of our protection.

Our priorities are simple and fair asks, designed to stop those who have experienced severe injustice dying before they receive compensation and to ensure that those who are seeking safety in the United Kingdom are treated with dignity. Over to you, Suella Braverman.

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