On 23rd March 2021, the UK Government announced sweeping changes to how they will treat people seeking safety in the UK. Instead of fixing a system that’s been failing people for years, these changes take a wrecking ball to the very principle of asylum.
The UK Government has since invited public feedback on these plans. This would usually be a chance to challenge their plans, raise important details and hold the Government to account. But, as with the inquiry stage for the recent Sewell Report on institutional racism, this consultation is a sham.
- The ‘New Plan for Immigration’ is a half-baked political manifesto. It lays out vague, unworkable, cruel and potentially unlawful plans justified by misleading or simply incorrect evidence, wrapped up in racist and divisive language.
- The consultation is poorly designed, confusing and inaccessible. The documents are only available in English and Welsh. The questions are clearly designed to lead people into endorsing the Government’s plan.
- The Government left people fewer than six working weeks to give their thoughts on the largest changes to the asylum system in two decades.
Normally consultations like this last at least 12 weeks. These six weeks also include Easter holidays, a May bank holiday, Ramadan and an election period during which those involved in local, mayoral and devolved nation elections are restricted in what they can say publicly.
- Most incredibly, this consultation does not prioritise the views and experiences of refugees and people seeking asylum. Not one question in the official consultation document asks people about their personal experiences of fleeing persecution or seeking safety in the UK. And the inaccessible process will make it more difficult for many of the most important voices of all to be heard.
This is not a process designed by a Government that genuinely wants to listen or has any interest in being challenged or changing its approach. We can only conclude this is a thinly veiled public relations exercise with a pre-determined outcome that we’ve been reading about on the front pages of newspapers for months.
It seems the Government has already forgotten the shameful legacy of Windrush. Just weeks ago, the Home Office signed a legal agreement requiring the department to properly consider the impacts of its policies on the groups of people they affect. It is our view that the Home Office has already failed to meet this commitment.
This Government already punishes refugees at every turn. Instead of fixing this injustice, they are doubling down on it. They are planning to leave traumatised people stuck in refugee camps on UK soil or in dangerous situations abroad. Their proposals are cruel, unjust and deadly.