Today Suella Braverman announced the government’s latest plans in their assault on the right to seek safety in the UK. Rather than address any of the glaring issues in its failing asylum system – huge delays, dangerous and inappropriate accommodation, and abdication of responsibilities to children – the government once again chooses to distract, divide and attack.
The latest plan is to prevent people from claiming asylum in the UK at all if they arrive via “irregular” routes, by making their claims inadmissible. In practice this would mean removing the right to seek safety for almost everyone, as there are no safe routes to claim asylum in the UK other than schemes for very few specific nationalities, and it is not possible to claim asylum outside the UK.
This latest plan is politicking pure and simple. Ministers continue whipping up hysteria to cover the government’s incompetence. The actual numbers we are talking about remain small: as refugee and asylum specialist Lou Calvey pointed out, the same number of people who go and watch Manchester United play football on a Saturday applied for asylum in the whole of 2022.
Even on the government’s own terms, with no returns agreements and the Rwanda plan stalled, this new plan is nonsensical. It is irresponsible – and transparently cynical – to continue introducing new legislation that will not fulfil the supposed purpose of preventing lives being lost on the Channel. The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 claimed to be serving the same purpose, and has only introduced further delay into the backlogged asylum system.
Half of the people who crossed the Channel last year looking for protection in the UK were from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Iran, Sudan or Syria, all countries where the grant rate for asylum is very high and the need for protection is clear. The reason they were forced to make that dangerous journey was because the government has spectacularly failed to provide them safe routes. And the asylum backlog, now running at over 160,000 people, further shows that the government cannot run a functioning asylum system. We don’t need new laws to solve this – we need the government to do its job.
With its latest draconian ideas the government are once again showing themselves up as outliers, out of step with the mood of public: recent research found the British public one of the most positive towards immigration. People in our communities are compassionate and welcoming, and rightly condemn hatred towards people seeking safety. But the kind of demonising, dehumanising language we see in Parliament today is part of the same rhetoric that stoked a far-right organised mob outside a hotel in our region, the North West.
Senior members of this government have gone so far as to condone this deeply concerning racist escalation, with the Conservative Party deputy chairman expressing “sympathy” for the rioters. And by legislating to lock up children who are seeking safety from war and persecution, this government is tearing up commitments made by its Conservative predecessors and regressively putting itself on the fringes of politics.
Over the last few weeks we’ve seen the impact on people first-hand, calling our advice line worried about any one of the latest leaked government soundbites. Like all parts of Hostile Environment, it doesn’t just harm those directly impacted. Many people with claims in the asylum system are unclear whether new laws affect them, meaning that these announcements bring fear to wider community and re-traumatise people who have already sought sanctuary.
Our message to the government is that we’re better than this. We don’t want dangerous, hate-mongering laws from Westminster, we want a compassionate, common-sense asylum system that clears the backlog and sets up safe routes.