We have become increasingly concerned at the hostile and dehumanising rhetoric from the Home Office, and the Home Secretary in particular, around people seeking sanctuary. This concern was compounded today with the revelation of new proposals which threaten the right to seek asylum in the United Kingdom.1
The proposals would punish people forced to take overland routes to claim asylum in the UK, deeming them “inadmissible” to the asylum system. They would then be targeted for removal from the UK. If they could not be removed, then they would be given temporary protection with less entitlement to support and family reunion rights. This temporary protection would mean that people would be regularly reassessed for removal, a system which would create a huge burden of uncertainty and fear amongst those seeking sanctuary. The proposals also make reference to the possibility of offshore processing, amending the National Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to make it possible to move people whilst an asylum claim is pending.
The proposals are a threat to the right to seek asylum, a right enshrined in international law more than half a century ago. Penalising people and threatening their asylum claims based on how they seek asylum contravenes this right, and undermines our history of offering sanctuary to people who need it.
The policy also creates a dichotomy of deserving and undeserving; those few who are able to come through resettlement schemes versus the majority who are forced to take irregular routes into the country. We wish that people did not have to resort to risking their lives to enter the UK, and have long campaigned for safe and legal routes that take away this need. However, introducing punitive measures against people who are forced to enter through irregular routes is not the answer.
In her speech to the House of Commons, Priti Patel referred to “illegal arrivals.” Language such as this demonises and dehumanises; no one is illegal, and it is a dangerous narrative to pursue. People seek asylum here because of war, persecution and violence; they have fled some of the most unspeakable horrors and should be offered protection, not criminalised.
We agree that the asylum system needs a massive overhaul. In its current state it is ineffective and inhumane; these proposals will only make that worse. Penalising people for seeking sanctuary here through irregular routes is unfair and unjust, especially when there is little other option. The Home Office says that “Britain needs a firm but fair system.” We can assure you, this is anything but fair.
1JCWI have created a useful document to explain the new proposals: https://www.jcwi.org.uk/explained-priti-patels-plans-for-the-immigration-system
If your organisation would like to sign this letter, please email [email protected]
Caroline Beatty, Co-Chair, Bristol City of Sanctuary
Susana Askew, Co-Chair, Bristol City of Sanctuary
Lizzie Briggs, Director, Bristol Hospitality Network
Jo Benefield, Bristol Defend Asylum Seekers Campaign
Dan Green, Bridges for Communities
Kim Prado, Founding Director, Houria
Anna Garlands, Co-Director, Houria
Beth Wilson, Director, Bristol Refugee Rights
Layla Ismail, Development Manager, Refugee Women of Bristol
Rami Ghali, CEO, Brigstowe
Global Goals Centre
Bristol Refugee Festival
Horfield Quaker Meeting
Redland Quaker Meeting
Rev Richard McKay, Chair, Borderlands
Rev Richard McKay, Priest, St Nicholas of Tolentino