My hope for 2022 is for the creation of a safe and legal passage for refugees, and laws that would enable applications for asylum to be treated humanely.
- In 2002, Britain received over 84,000 asylum applications.
- At the latest annual count, there were less than 40,000.
- Britain takes fewer refugees than Germany, France, Spain and Italy.
The reality for refugees
Home is where you live and where your parents, your other relatives and friends live, you have your livelihood, and your children go to school. It is where you understand how things work because you have grown up there.
So, what might make it necessary to risk life and limb to look for another country to call home?
Think of conflict in Syria or Afghanistan; religious persecution in Myanmar, political instability in Venezuela, food insecurity in South Sudan. Currently, over 82 million people have been forced to leave their homes.
Climate change is already a massive cause of displacement and likely to become one of the most challenging pressures globally. Thousands of people are already on the move. Many of us could become climate refugees.
Many refugees with savings are risking their lives or those of family members, to pay for people smugglers to take them on a dangerous journey, often lasting several months, in order to reach a country of safety. Think how it will feel to reach Britain and find yourself confronted by Priti Patel’s new rules on immigration.
The British government’s approach to immigration
Our Home Secretary admits that her own family would probably not have been eligible to apply to move to Britain under her new immigration points system. She insists that her only interest is to create a single immigration system that will take back control of our borders’ and support our labour market and the needs of the British economy.
The Government says it wants a new system that will transform the way in which all migrants come to the UK to work, study, visit or join their family.
The government is interested in a high skilled, high waged economy. But what about jobs classed as ‘low skilled’, that are effectively low paid work?
With the departure of thousands of EU workers who would not qualify under the new rules, we lost farm workers to harvest fruit and vegetables; staff in social care and hospitals; skilled butchers in our abattoirs; haulage drivers needed to deliver goods round the country.
The government says it is committed to levelling up the country and growing the whole economy. Will its words ever be backed up by appropriate actions?
The proposed Nationality and Borders bill
Priti Patel says the proposed Nationality and Borders Bill will tackle illegal immigration and “the underlying pull factors into the UK’s asylum system”. Her plans present refugees as deliberately coming to Britain to take advantage of our welfare system. Some sections of the population are attracted to this hard approach and believe it will keep people out who have no right to be here.
The new law will treat refugees as criminals and make life very difficult while they make their applications. Immigration lawyers have identified several ways in which the law will break international and domestic law. Some of the complaints include:
- Any asylum seeker arriving any way other than via resettlement will lose the living allowance, have limited rights to family reunion and could be returned to their country of origin at any time.
- They could be held in off-shore camps, possibly in other countries with their rights to claim asylum removed.
- The flimsy boats carrying refugees could be intercepted and turned back, risking lives further.
- As a member of the EU, the government would not have had to consider an asylum application from a person arriving via another safe country; they could return the person to that country. However, Brexit means this is unlikely to be workable.
But what happens to refugees who cross the Channel?
They’re held, often in crowded accommodation, men, women and children together, living and sleeping on mattresses on the floor. There appears to be no regard for social distancing or ventilation to protect people against Covid-19.
This country is treating refugees as less than human. About 10,000 people have arrived in the UK via the Channel. Over 1000 have lost their lives attempting this crossing. When Nigel Farage criticised the RNLI for saving lives, the British public responded by donating more than ever to that brave institution. A proud moment! This is how we would want to be treated if ever we found ourselves in the same wretched situation.
We need a safe and legal passage for refugees to apply for asylum; we need our government to treat refugees with respect and humanity, to welcome them to safety and provide all the services that will give them the opportunity to start a new life in which they can contribute to our society. These are my hopes for 2022.