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Refugee Action response to Manston conditions and the asylum system

By November 10, 2022February 7th, 2023Statement

The Government failed to listen to warnings last year about the need for urgent action to prevent an asylum system already in crisis from collapsing all together . No action was taken despite calls from charities to provide resources to deal with the huge backlog in asylum decision making, and to work with local authorities to provide better housing solutions.

The result of the huge backlog is unmanageable pressure on the asylum accommodation system with people being housed in ever poorer conditions and facing years and months of limbo whilst living in poverty.

The current crisis is not new. The origins of the Windrush scandal were found by a Government report to lie in 30 years of racist immigration policy making. The crisis in the asylum system is a result of the same problem. It has its roots in decades of legislation and policy-making on immigration that has been found to be institutionally racist

Irregular migration became ‘illegal migration’ and now the Government is using ‘invasion’. This rise in racist rhetoric and the normalising of the language of the far right is creating an unsafe environment for people who are placed vulnerable situations due to the failures of the system. We’re seeing the resulting attacks from the far right already.

The Government’s hostile approach means every part of the asylum system is geared to punish people. Years of this type of legislation has not led to smaller numbers of people attempting to claim asylum, but instead created an inhumane, convoluted and costly system that is failing.

Refugees are crossing the Channel and being detained in miserable conditions – at great expense to the public. These are the costs of hostility.

Reforms in the Nationality and Borders Act will only create further crises like this one. Children sending messages in bottles while imprisoned in overcrowded dirty conditions, people stranded at Victoria Station without shoes or coats.

Urgent action is needed to deal with this crisis but so is longer term planning. At Refugee Action we want to see a humane system that offers safety and works for people needing protection and the communities they join.

To Government must:

  • Provide additional resources for thorough, efficient and high quality decisions the first time. With good quality legal support to ensure people know understand the system and know their rights Currently over half of cases are decided on appeal
  • Urgently open more safe routes for people to come to the UK. The percentage of people crossing the Channel recognised as refugees remains high – as high as 85% of decisions on claims made in 2021
  • Immediately grant the right to work for people seeking asylum and their adult dependants (unconstrained by the shortage occupation list) who have waited 6 months for a decision on their application
  • Work with refugee charities to provide a reception service for new arrivals which prioritises the needs of the person and offers a trauma informed approach and safe and humane conditions with proper health and welfare support in place delivered by qualified staff
  • Set up a cross departmental taskforce to work with LAs and housing charities to solve the accommodation crisis and keep people in our communities