Jesuit Refugee Service has published a report called Being human in the asylum system.
JRS UK report seeks to envisage a just and person-centred asylum system by bringing refugee experience and policy analysis into conversation with Catholic Social Teaching, against the backdrop of new, deeply troubling government proposals for an overhaul of the asylum system:
This report seeks to envisage a just and person centred asylum system by bringing refugee experience and policy analysis into conversation with Catholic Social Teaching, against the backdrop of new, deeply troubling government proposals for an overhaul of the asylum system.
JRS UK has accompanied and supported people in the asylum system for decades. Refugees and asylum seekers have told us that the current asylum system needs reform: it frequently retraumatises and creates insurmountable barriers to accessing the protection they deserve.
It approaches them with suspicion and greets them with a hostile environment, subjecting many to years of destitution, punctuated by periods of detention. Refugees and asylum seekers express a desire for a new approach – for an asylum determination system that hears their story and strives to offer them protection; for an asylum system that allows them to flourish and rebuild their lives.
New government proposals for asylum reform, by contrast, start from a position of disbelief, and are formulated on the basis that asylum claimants are lying. They are more concerned with refusing asylum claims and removing claimants than with ensuring that people in need of sanctuary are offered protection and a chance to rebuild their lives. They would deny the chance of permanent settlement to large numbers of refugees whose claims are processed in the UK, and force asylum claimants to live in detention or in ghetto-like reception centres whilst awaiting an outcome on their claims. Asylum reform is badly needed.
But these latest proposals take the most unjust elements of the current system as a foundation for imagining further cruelty. As Pope Francis reminds us in Fratelli Tutti, this approach displays signs of major social sickness and will ultimately be self-destructive, threatening the very fabric of our society and culture as a whole.
Catholic Social Teaching (CST) offers principles that can give a fresh perspective and help us imagine a reformed system based on justice.
CST challenges us to re-orient our thinking about border management around common humanity
Being human in the asylum system and human need that transcends national
boundaries. It requires us to protect and nurture human dignity, and reminds us that the common good can only be achieved if we all participate and the most marginalised are included. It also calls us to create structures with and for others, in solidarity with the most marginalised.
Drawing on these principles from CST and on reflections from refugees and asylum seekers, we recommend a new set of core principles for a radically reformed asylum system: one founded on justice, designed for the welfare of refugees and not for their harm.
We argue a newly reformed asylum system should aim to:
- enshrine protection and transparency at the heart of the asylum determination process,
in a culture where asylum claimants are seen and heard;
- provide borders which are open to those in need of protection;
- support asylum claimants and refugees to live in dignity, and participate fully in wider social,
economic, and political life;
- foster a society that welcomes, protects, promotes, and integrates those seeking
sanctuary as our neighbours.