Once new Home Secretary James Cleverly gets his feet under the desk, he’ll find at the top of his in-tray a UK asylum system that has collapsed in a maelstrom of cruelty, incompetence, and the politically motivated punishment of people seeking safety.
It is more apparent than ever that his predecessors’ approach of closing safe routes into the UK, designing an asylum system around the principle of deterrence and whipping up hatred against refugees has been a moral and practical failure of huge proportions.
Mr. Cleverly has an opportunity to change course. Here’s Refugee Action’s plan for running an asylum system cleverly, fairly and effectively.
1. ANTI- RACISM
All people who arrive in the UK to seek safety are welcomed equally into an anti-racist and compassionate asylum system that is simple to navigate and supports people to rebuild their lives in safety and with stability.
Make access to safe routes for people coming to the UK equal, wherever they come from in the world. A compassionate asylum system does not discriminate based on nationality, and would ensure people who want to claim asylum in the UK can arrive safely and be well supported when they do.
Focus on protection and trauma support. Undertake a review to consider if the Home Office needs to be dismantled and/or whether immigration should be removed from its administration. While it is still in place, the Home Office must always be transparent in the way it works and the data it shares. Everyone seeking asylum will be able to access legal support and an advocate for support.
The hostile environment must be replaced by a welcoming, anti-racist environment. We are all paying the cost of cruelty in economic and human terms. That has to end, and be replaced with investment in refugee protection as a public good.
Put policies in place to ensure people who arrive in the UK feel supported and cared for, have access to justice, and receive a quick and fair decision on their claim so that they can start to rebuild their lives in the UK.
5. THE RIGHT ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPORT
People seeking safety need a home that keeps them safe from mental and physical harm while their asylum claim is processed. That means safety, privacy, the ability to connect with friends and loved ones, living in a community and having health and accessibility needs met. You can read Refugee Action’s full set of asylum accommodation principles here.
6. TAKE PROFIT OUT OF THE EQUATION
The asylum system should be there to make people safe, not to make rich people richer. The levels of profit currently flowing into contractors from the asylum industry are scandalous. For too long, companies that treat people seeking safety awfully have been awarded massive public contracts, meaning massive payouts to their shareholders and senior staff.
We need to see profit taken out of the equation and every penny of public money available to the refugee protection system spent on protecting refugees. Sign our petition in favour of a not-for-profit asylum system here.
7. THE RIGHT TO WORK
People seeking asylum should have the right to support themselves and their families while they wait for a decision on their claim. The public (81% say the ban on work should be lifted), businesses large and small, unions, faith groups and even the government’s own migration advice body, all agree that giving people seeking the asylum the right to work is a common sense policy in which everyone wins.