To Penny Mordaunt and Robert Jenrick

Back in May, we wrote to the Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick asking why we were seeing no extra help for people from Sudan to come to the UK. We wanted to share how we were feeling, our worries for our families. Thank you to Gorton MP Afzal Khan, who quoted our letter in Parliament, and asked Penny Mordaunt what safe and legal asylum routes the government was planning to open for people fleeing violence in Sudan.

But her answer wasn’t good enough. She said she hoped it would “put our mind at rest” but it only left us with more questions. With help from GMIAU, this is what we want to respond:

There are no safe and legal routes for people to claim asylum from Sudan.

Penny Mordaunt said that grant rates for people claiming asylum from Sudan are between 86-94%. It’s true that most people arriving from Sudan will get refugee status – because we can prove that we are fleeing violence there. But the majority of those people have been forced to take unsafe or “irregular” routes to the UK. If so many people from Sudan are entering in the country on valid grounds, then it makes no sense to make their lives more difficult by not providing a safe way for them to enter.

Robert Jenrick has said that the UNHCR and refugee family reunion are options for people fleeing Sudan. According to the government’s statistics, in the year ending June 2023, 130 people from Sudan were resettled as refugees in the UK through the UK resettlement scheme. But there is no way to apply for this scheme: the UNHCR have clarified this. And for those with family already in the UK, family reunion is not so straightforward. The rules are very restrictive and the system is very delayed, so people are waiting a year or more; this is not a safe route out.

So what do other people do? In the year up to June 2023, 2,210 people from Sudan arrived in the UK “irregularly”, with 1,655 crossing the Channel in small boats to claim asylum. While Penny Mordaunt is right that most people from Sudan will get refugee status, she’s wrong to imply that there are safe and legal routes which get us there.

At the moment, the violence in Sudan means it’s very difficult to travel within or out of the country at all. When people are able to make those dangerous journeys, it’s almost always young people. Older people, and others who aren’t as physically able, get left behind and have no options at all. We need safe and legal routes to ensure the most vulnerable can flee danger.

In our letter we asked why people from Sudan are being treated differently to people from Ukraine. 179,500 people have arrived in the UK on Ukraine Visa Schemes: schemes that people could apply to, meaning they would receive visas and be able to travel safely to the UK. Why is there not a similar scheme for people fleeing violence in Sudan?

We are not numbers. We are people. All of us arrived in the UK as unaccompanied children. Many of us faced very long, dangerous, and traumatising journeys to get here. We were at the mercy of exploiters and traffickers in Libya; at risk of drowning in the Mediterranean; left hungry and freezing in Calais; all of this after leaving our families as children in hope of finding safety. So it’s difficult to listen to you speak as if we had another choice. And it’s upsetting that your Illegal Migration Act is now going to punish children who made journeys like ours from Sudan and other countries.

Written by GMIAU and the All4One youth group