Report by Home Affairs Select Committee on the UK Border Agency
In their report on the UK Government’s Legacy programmes, the Home Affairs Select Committee stated that there was an asylum “amnesty” attached to the programme.
Asylum “Amnesty – Myth
The Welsh Refugee Council is not in agreement with this assumption. Mike Lewis CEO of the Welsh Refugee Council says “it is important to note that the asylum process is not and should not be used as a route to migrating to the UK and the asylum figures reflect this”. Many of our clients have been through very rigorous “checks and balances” before being granted status with some of them waiting up to 10 years to get a decision. Also, in 2010, figures show around 25.5% of the claims were actually granted in the Initial Asylum Process.
Refugee and Asylum Seekers
Many asylum seekers and refugees face destitution during and after the asylum process and others simply cannot return to their countries. This is the real issue in the process. Pierre, a refugee says “Whatever that I have gained in the UK over the past years, I would like to bring back to my homeland as I believe it is of no use here”. The word amnesty refers to “a pardon” of some kind which in itself suggests that asylum seekers have to be pardoned for doing something wrong which is not the case.
Refugee Convention 1951
It is everyone’s duty as members of the global community to ensure that the Refugee Convention of 1951 is upheld when a person says that he or she is in fear for their life.
When a person is granted status, WRC believe that we have actively participated in saving that person’s life and this is one of our core values. The contributions of refugees are too many to mention and it is hoped that this view of the programme will not in any way hinder the process that everyone is treated as fairly as possible and on an individual basis.
UKBA’s update on ending the detention of children
The UK Border Agency has written an update today on action taken since December 2010 in their commitment to end child detention.
On December 16th, the Government announced the findings from their review into the detention of children. They have made a number of changes following these findings. One of these changes is a new family returns process. As of today, 1st March, the UKBA are launching this process nationally.
The UKBA have issued further guidance to Asylum Caseowners on how to process family cases right from the point they claim asylum, as well as guidance on dealing with families who didn’t participate in the pilots with instructions on how to take these cases forward under the new process. Over 100 UKBA staff have received training to become specialist family caseworkers.
The Family Key Worker Pilot is a project that the UKBA are working with Refugee Action on that aims to test the impact of increased asylum seeker trust and understanding of the asylum process in the outcomes of claims, including take-up of voluntary returns. To date 30 families have received key worker support from Refugee Action staff.
The Early Legal Advice Project aims to get more cases right first time by ensuring decision makers have all the evidence available at the decision making stage. The evaluation of the project will look at whether the access to early legal advice has an impact on better decision-making, and trust in the asylum system for all asylum seekers, including families.
‘Pre-Departure Accommodation’ will be used for families where other ensured return options have failed. These centres will be secure. The UKBA say this centre will respect family privacy and independence, and allow children and families to have opportunity to leave the premises – subject to a risk and safeguarding assessment and suitable supervision arrangements. Read an article by the Independent which outlines concerns about whether these centres are simply detention centres under a different name.
Re-entry Ban. Instead of the current 5 year ban on individuals voluntarily leaving the UK, there will be a two year ban on re-entry if people leave within 6 months of the conclusion of any appeal. The existing 5 year ban will continue if people stay here longer than 6 months after their appeal has been exhausted.
See the Home Office’s monthly statistics on children entering detention.
Read the Refugee Children’s Consortium’s (of which Welsh Refugee Council is a member), briefing on Alternatives to Detention which was produced in June 2010 in light of the government’s policy review and which argues that ’ending the detention of children is not dependent on establishing “alternatives to detention” projects, or new processes for families’.