UK Government presents new ‘hostile’ Immigration Bill as Parliamentary Committee criticises asylum system

UK Government’s new ‘hostile’ Immigration Bill presented as Parliamentary Committee publishes critical report on the UK asylum system

The new Immigration Bill, designed to create a ‘hostile environment for illegal migrants’, as described by the Home Secretary, will require private landlords and banks to carry out checks on immigration status and gives more search and data recording powers to police and immigration officers. The Bill also dictates that UK courts, when considering deportation appeals, must accord ‘little weight’ to the appellant’s family life established while their status was ‘precarious’ or unlawful. Perhaps most controversially, the Bill will institute a policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’ for claims certified as ‘clearly unfounded’ or, in the case of ‘foreign criminals’, for appellants who would not face ‘a real risk of serious irreversible harm’ if required to appeal after deportation.

The British Refugee Council, Member of ECRE, finds that the Bill disregards the vulnerability of many irregular migrants in the UK, stating that ‘refugees and asylum seekers came to the UK escaping persecution. It is our responsibility to offer protection and a place of safety, not to discriminate and to marginalise them further’.

The day after the Coalition Government proposed the new Immigration Bill to Parliament, the Home Affairs Select Committee (HASC) of the House of Commons published a report describing the UK asylum system as ‘under strain’ and ‘overburdened’. The report criticises the ‘wholly unacceptable’ number of applicants still waiting for an initial decision after six months, which rose by 63% in 2012. The quality of decision making is also a concern, according to the worrying statistic that 30% of appeals against initial decisions were allowed in 2012. In what appears to be connected problems, the report condemns sub-standard housing provision and a lack of transparency and monitoring of private housing providers who receive public funding. The Committee criticises gaps in the provision of support both for persons whose asylum claims have not been successful who cannot be returned and for those granted protection who have not yet gained access to domestic benefits.

The report highlights that the process for lesbian and gay applicants, many of whom are fleeing persecution, is said to rely too heavily on anecdotal evidence and ‘proving that they are gay’. This had led to claimants handing over photographic and video evidence of ‘highly personal sexual activity’ to caseworkers.

The British Refugee Council has stated that ‘the damning findings of the HASC report reflect our long-held, grave concerns about the asylum system in the UK, illustrating a dysfunctional system characterised by poor quality decision making and routine insensitivity. The Government now needs to demonstrate the political will and leadership to use this roadmap for change as the basis for achieving an asylum system that is fair, efficient and commands public confidence.’

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