Today this government made an announcement setting out changes to the asylum system. The starkest and most significant change is that anyone arriving by small boat will not be able to claim asylum. This is essentially a ban on the human right to seek asylum.
This will not work. Brutal plans like this one will not stop people trying to reach family, safety and the chance to rebuild. When someone has a reason to make this deadly crossing and they are provided with no other routes to safety, they will make the crossing.
The Home Office’s own statistics show that the vast majority of the men, women and children who cross the Channel in order to claim asylum are later recognised as refugees. That means our own government recognises that they are fleeing war and persecution and deserve safety on these shores.
The only way to stop people risking their life making this perilous crossing is to provide safe routes. Aside from the Hong Kong and Ukraine schemes, right now there are almost no ways for someone to safely reach the UK. In fact, this month it was revealed that only four people have been brought to safety in 11 months through the Afghan Resettlement Scheme.
Today’s announcement states that Albanian people would be immediately deported. But we know many people in Albania face real danger and persecution.
The answer to the UK’s asylum system problems is not to unfairly target specific nationalities. Instead this government must tackle the 150,000 unprocessed asylum cases. This backlog means that instead of waiting a few months for a decision on an asylum claim, people often now have to wait years. If the system functioned better, there would be need to house people in expensive, unsuitable, and in some cases outright dangerous, hotel accommodation.
If the system functioned better, there would be no need for this government to scapegoat a small group of tired and scared people who are being forced to risk everything in the hope of finding sanctuary.
This government wants us to think there is no alternative to hostility – but there is.
We need a system based on compassion and fairness – one that sees people seeking safety as human beings.
At City of Sanctuary, we support and extend welcome to all who come seeking safety.
If you’re bored of the scapegoating and hostility join our movement for change. Wherever you live or work there are ways to get involved and show welcome to people seeking sanctuary. Find your local group here.