UK immigration: experts give Home Office a 'blueprint' for how to tackle the asylum seeker crisis
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Experts have offered Rishi Sunak and Suella Braverman an alternative to their "impractical" Rwanda deportation scheme as they insist that there are more "humane" ways to deal with the UK's asylum seeker crisis.
The Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) has published a new report which condemns the "hostile approach of deterrence" that the Home Office has adopted when it comes to asylum seekers - and outlined a new plan for how ministers should deal with those making dangerous 'small boats' journeys across the English Channel.
In January, the Prime Minister said that cracking down on Channel crossings would be one of his five priorities, which eventually led to the passing of the controversial Illegal Migration Act. This legislation, which had a turbulent journey through Parliament, will see anyone deemed to have arrived in the UK via ‘illegal’ or ‘irregular’ routes barred from claiming asylum. Then, they will be detained and subsequently deported either to their country of origin, or a third country such as Rwanda.
Sunak and Braverman's hopes of sending migrants to Rwanda have been dashed for the moment however, as the Court of Appeal ruled that the plan was unlawful. The Supreme Court is currently considering whether to support or overturn this ruling, but until a decision is made, no asylum seekers can be sent to the east African country.
But multiple refugee charities and immigration experts have argued that, even if the plan is ruled lawful, ministers should not go ahead with it because it is 'impractical, costly, and ineffective'. The IPPR is one such organisation with this viewpoint - claiming the Rwanda scheme is "destined to fail". The think tank has therefore outlined a three-point, alternative plan for how the government should tackle the asylum crisis:
1. Create new safe, accessible, and legal routes for people seeking refuge in the UK
This would include the piloting of a unique refugee visa, particularly for people from Afghanistan, which would allow asylum seekers to apply for temporary leave to enter the UK via embassies in other, nearby countries. This would reduce the reliance on desperate journeys across the Channel.
More safe routes to the UK would also be created by widening currently "restrictive" refugee family reunion rules, and by expanding the UK's Resettlement Scheme, which in 2022 saw just 6,000 people re-homed in the UK. To put this number in perspective, 915,000 (78%) arrived via 'other' immigration, which includes those arriving for work or education.
2. Renew collaboration with Europe
The IPPR also called for the UK to "renew collaboration" with its neighbours in Europe, for instance by working together more to tackle people smuggling and human trafficking. It also said the immigration status of migrants who arrive in northern France needs to be "resolved", and "fair" rules should be agreed for deciding which country should process an asylum seeker's claim.
Experts at the think tank also suggested that the UK should participate in a Europe-wide "solidarity mechanism", which would involve accepting a share of re-locations of asylum seekers from other countries, but would also see the UK able to re-locate migrants who have arrived in the UK from across the Channel back to the first European Union state of entry.
3. Fix the UK's broken domestic asylum system
Finally, the IPPR has said the Home Office needs to "fix" the UK's system for processing asylum seekers, which it described as "broken". This should be done by reducing the backlog by making "fast and fair" decisions on claims, and by reforming the current model of asylum accommodation.
The IPPR also said the government could only fix the "broken" system by ditching Sunak and Braverman's "reliance on deterrence and [creating] an environment of hostility". Evidence suggests, the think tank said, that tough measures are unlikely to 'stop the boats' as the majority of asylum seekers are unaware of these policies before they arrive in the UK - primarily focused on finding safety and security.
The plan to deport migrants to Rwanda will also only make things worse, the IPPR argued, as "there is little chance the country will be able to accept asylum seekers on the scale necessary for the plan to function", which means, alongside the Illegal Migration Act, more and more people will end up "trapped" in the UK - unable to be removed and unable to claim asylum.
Commenting on the report's findings, Marley Morris, associate director for migration at IPPR, said: "The government has challenged those opposed to the Rwanda deal to propose a credible alternative. Our new report does just that.
"Compared with the impractical, costly Rwanda plan, our focus is on solutions which are humane, evidence-based and deliverable. Under our approach, the government would reform and expand safe alternatives for people seeking refuge in the UK, to divert them away from crossing the Channel in dangerous, unseaworthy boats.
"New deals with the UK’s partners in Europe would seek a managed, orderly approach to resolving asylum claims. And finally, we need to get to grips with the failures of the asylum system at home with a concerted effort to triage asylum claims and bring down the backlog, saving millions on hotels in the process."