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UK asylum overhaul "inaccurate, unrealistic": Prof Dallal Stevens

The UK government's Home Secretary, Priti Patel, has today announced a new system for people seeking asylum in Britain. Read the story here on BBC News.

Professor Dallal Stevens, an expert on asylum from the School of Law at the University of Warwick, comments:

"Home Secretary, Priti Patel, clearly has no understanding of UK asylum law and policy, or its history. If she did, she would realise that much of what she is proposing is either (a) inaccurate, (b) unrealistic, (c) existed previously or (d) unlikely to achieve her goals.

Prof Dallal Stevens

"The Home Office claims that 'for the first time' illegal entry via a 'safe third country', such as France, 'would have an impact' on claims. This is not true. Under current law, failure to take advantage of a reasonable opportunity to make an asylum claim in a safe country affects the asylum seeker’s 'credibility', with serious consequences for the claim.

"The suggestion that the government would seek the 'rapid removal' of rejected claimants is unrealistic. Following withdrawal from the EU, the UK has failed to enter into any bilateral arrangements for return of asylum seekers to 'safe' EU Member States, and there is no incentive for such countries to agree to any arrangements (and arguably they also do not have the power to do so as asylum is under EU competence, not Member States). In any event, few removals under the previous EU system – the Dublin Regulation ­– took place for myriad reasons.

"The grant of indefinite leave to remain to those 'legally resettled' is positive, but this is not new: in the past, when refugee status was granted, ILR was immediate. Furthermore, international refugee law actually allows for temporary residence and reassessment of refugee status if conditions in the home country change, so temporary permission to remain is not as unusual as it might appear.

"Discussion of legal resettlement routes has to be treated with some scepticism. While the UK has met its targets, these are very low in light of the number of refugees requiring resettlement globally. The new scheme aims to resettle only 5,000 people per year.

"These proposals continue the UK’s approach to asylum of many decades: the criminalisation, exclusion and deterrence of asylum seekers for political reasons. They will not prevent desperate people from arriving; nor will they offer the protections needed by those at risk."

24 March 2021

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