How Quakers can respond to the government’s new immigration plan

We will keep updating this page with useful information and advice.

16 April 2021: Women for Refugee Women has produced a very helpful guide about how to navigate the process of completing the Government’s consultation regarding the New Plan for Immigration, online.

You will find this document here:


QARN Steering Group has produced two documents to help people think about how they may wish to answer the questions when they complete the Government’s New Plan for Immigration: the first document relates to the main questions, and the second document refers to additional questions. These are in pdf form and so you can download them, and they are available to anyone who wishes to use them:


At the heart of our Quaker testimonies lie equality, peace, truth, justice and simplicity. The government’s latest immigration proposals challenge each of these values.

8 April 2021: Quaker.org: The Quaker online blog: The Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network explore the UK government’s new immigration plan and outline what Quakers can do to respond.

It’s ok to look at the consultation on the UK government’s New Plan for Immigration and not know where to start. Alongside a seemingly overwhelming list of new policies, there is confusing disparity in the plan between words and policy.

The report uses the words ‘fair’ and ‘unfair’ twenty-three times. In reality, though, it roots inequality into the asylum system. It sets out to discriminate between ‘legal’ and ‘illegal’ routes into the UK even though the international 1951 Refugee Convention is incorporated into our domestic law. Our country has committed by law to listening to anyone who arrives in the UK and asks for asylum.

Hazardous journeys

This proposed distinction between routes to the UK is a jarring response to the death of a young man from Sudan, Abdulfatah Hamdallah, in the Channel last August; to the four Kurdish-Iranian people, including two children, who died when their boat sank in October – and 15-month-old baby Artin who was lost; to thousands of others trying to cross the Mediterranean who didn’t survive their hazardous journeys. How soon our promises to Alan Kurdi were broken.

Waiting for an official resettlement scheme or stopping to pick up a passport – if you even own one or are able to get to an airport unhindered – is simply not an option for thousands fleeing persecution.

But under the plan people who take unsafe routes to the UK will receive a different, lesser form of protection than someone who has arrived by official means, including making it more difficult to bring their family here once they are settled. Their means of arrival will carry more weight than the gravity of the situation they’re escaping, even though the situation someone is leaving holds the same trauma however they escape it.

Upholding collective responsibility

We then find our testimony to justice confronted with a plan under which people whose asylum claim is refused would be stripped of financial support, deliberately imposing destitution.

New reception centres would be opened at the same time as brushing over conditions at Napier barracks. At the height of the pandemic up to 30 people shared one bedroom and bathroom, contrary to advice from Public Health England. A new group of people was sent to Napier on 9 April, despite condemnation of the barracks by both the Prisons and Borders Inspectorate as ‘filthy’ and ‘impoverished’.

How can we claim to be upholders of peace if we accept proposals which are silent on the conflicts behind many people’s choice or compulsion to leave their homes? Or silent on the climate crisis already devastating life in parts of the world?

The Home Office wants to refuse to consider asylum claims if they decide that ‘a safe third country’ could be responsible instead – regardless of whether someone has ever even been there. People whose tents and belongings have been destroyed by police in Calais would dispute that France has a ‘well-functioning asylum system’. Nor would anyone feel safe in Greece, where riot police blocked people trying to leave overcrowded refugee camps after fires broke out.

How can we stay quiet as the government distorts the truth about our country’s response to displaced people in other countries? It would have us believe that the UK has honourably ‘taken back control’ of our immigration system. But in reality, we are washing our hands of collective responsibility to offer safety to people in desperate circumstances.

Responding to the consultation

The 6-week consultation ends on 6 May 2021.

It’s really important that we add our voice to the thousands of people objecting to these proposals, and the thousands more whose voices won’t be heard because they are marginalised in our society.

The plan creates separation between people. This is where simplicity comes into play. As Quakers we are – simply – asked to respect that of God in everyone.

To respond, you can follow these steps:

  • Read the Policy Statement (PDF), focusing on the Foreword and any chapters where you have a particular interest or expertise.
  • Visit the consultation webpage and sign up for an account.
  • You can download a list of the questions (PDF) to help you plan how you will respond.
  • Answer the survey, leaving out any questions where you don’t know how to respond. Even if you just respond to the multiple-choice questions, it will make a difference.

Join Quakers working to welcome people seeking sanctuary

https://www.quaker.org.uk/blog/how-quakers-can-respond-to-the-government-s-new-immigration-plan


There are a number of other organisations offering advice about what people may wish to write in their response to the Consultation, including:

Asylum Matters:

Home Office announces sweeping, divisive reforms of the UK’s asylum system

Last Wednesday, the UK Government announced new plans to ‘overhaul’ the asylum system. These drastic policy proposals have been trailed for many months, and have finally been published as part of the Home Office’s ‘New Plan for Immigration’ and announced in Parliament.

We are appalled by these inhumane and unworkable proposals, which threaten to slam the door in the face of people in dire need of protection from persecution. Despite the rhetoric, these divisive plans will do nothing to address the root causes of why people put their lives at risk trying to cross the Channel or the record backlog of people waiting in inhumane conditions for a decision on their claim for asylum. Instead, they threaten the very right to claim asylum in the UK and the safety of people on the move.

What’s in the ‘New Plan for Immigration’?

There are a few helpful articles now available online which try to summarise the content of the proposals, including on Free Movement JCWI’s explainer and Refugee Action’s statement.

Whilst there is not much in the way of policy detail within the plans, the main headlines include (but are not limited to):

  • Creating a two-tier system where refugees are granted different rights and status entirely due to how they have entered the UK;
  • People who have entered the UK irregularly will be considered ‘inadmissible’ to the UK’s asylum system, and the Home Office will make all attempts to return them to another ‘safe’ third country (although this is ‘contingent on securing returns agreements’ with these countries). Only if the Home Office is unable to return someone to another ‘safe’ third country, will people who have entered irregularly be allowed to access the UK’s asylum system;
  • Those who have arrived irregularly and are then recognised as refugees will be granted ‘temporary protection status.’ Those with ‘temporary protection status’ will have no recourse to public funds and limited family reunion rights. Leave will last no longer than 30 months, after which they will be regularly reassessed for removal;
  • However, refugees who are resettled to the UK through government resettlement schemes will have enhanced levels of protection, including receiving indefinite leave to remain on arrival and enhanced family reunion rights;
  • Replacing the current asylum accommodation model with reception centres to provide basic accommodation for people while their asylum claim is processed. The proposals also intend to facilitate the use of offshore processing facilities in the future if deemed necessary by the Government;
  • Implement the provisions in the Immigration Act 2016, including removing Section 95 support from families who had been refused asylum, replacing Section 4 with a more limited form of support and restricting access to social services support for families;
  • For more information on the proposals around family reunion, please refer to this statement from the Families Together coalition.

Over the last week, there has also been great coverage in local and national media challenging the proposals, particularly from refugees who have sought sanctuary in the UK. Hassan Akkad, a refugee from Syria, has criticised the proposals in the Independent, Osman in Leeds expressed his disappointment at the harmful new policies on BBC Radio Leeds (3.15 into the show), and Natasha Walter challenges the Home Secretary to listen to women seeking asylum.

UKLGIG have been working with PIRC, NEON and other organisations who support LGBTQI+ people seeking asylum, and produced a messaging guide on communicating issues around LGBTQI+ asylum. The guide covers some of the issues that the New Plan for Immigration and Sovereign Borders Bill have brought up, and makes broader recommendations on terminology and responding to attacks.

What can you do about it?

Right now, we’re at a critical juncture. These proposals threaten the rights of people seeking asylum, and are the biggest overhaul of asylum policy in the UK since 1999. It’s more important than ever that the voices of people seeking asylum, the organisations that work alongside them, and the communities that have welcomed new arrivals are heard loud and clear.

The Government has now announced a six week consultation on these proposals, through an online platform where organisations and individuals can submit their input up until 6th May. You can also see the questions in advance here.

Over the next week, we’ll be pulling together guidance for organisations and individuals who want to respond to the consultation and change the narrative. We’re also looking into options for a webinar the following week, for partners to hear more about what’s in the New Plan for Immigration and how they can respond strategically to the consultation.

We’ll share more information on this as soon as possible. Please get in touch and let us know if there’s anything that would be particularly helpful to include.


ECPAT:

ECPAT raises the following concerns regarding children: Government immigration reforms could set back progress in support for child victims of trafficking

The Home Office has published their ‘New Plan for Immigration’ which includes a significant number of proposals to reform modern slavery legislation which will affect survivors of child exploitation. Wider measures relating to asylum policy will also be detrimental to survivors who also apply for asylum, a procedure which is already very challenging for many child victims to navigate.

The government’s proposals were announced shortly after the release of official NRM data showing more children than ever before were identified as potential victims of trafficking in 2020.

It remains unclear as to why proposals on modern slavery are included in a plan for immigration reform at all, given victim identification is not an immigration matter but rather a child protection issue in the case of children. Whilst we welcome the government’s stated intention to improve support for child victims, this seems incompatible with their plans as set out, particularly:

Proposals to ‘reform’ the standard of proof required to officially identify potential victims at the first stage of the modern slavery procedure under the National Referral Mechanism (NRM). The Reasonable Grounds threshold is currently set at ‘I suspect but cannot prove’ but the Home Office is proposing to move to a higher threshold because of ‘concerns that individuals are attempting to misuse the system’. This change could have far reaching implication for all child victims, including British national children who form the majority of child victims identified in the UK, with high standards of proof potentially leaving them at risk of not being identified as victims and unable to access protection and support. 

Intentions to clarify the definition of “public order” to prevent those linked to serious criminality’ from being assessed by the NRM. Serious criminality has been defined to apply to those with a prison sentence of 12 months or more. A definition this broad would be particularly harmful to children exploited in criminal activity who, in the absence of adequate identification, have faced custodial sentences – often for drug offences which carry over a year in a youth offending institute. Child victims of criminal exploitation represent the largest group of children exploited in the past year, with 1,544 referrals flagged as ‘county lines’ referrals, most of which relate to British national children.

New bureaucracy regarding age assessments, with the establishment of a National Age Assessment Board whose role includes promoting ‘scientific age assessment methods’, even in the absence of any evidence to support there is such a thing. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 also makes clear that where there is uncertainty over the age of a suspected victim of trafficking, there should be a presumption that the victim is under 18 until a local authority assessment has taken place or the person’s age is otherwise determined. This duty regarding the presumption of age set out in primary legislation seeks to protect children from being treated as adults. The proposals to allow immigration officers to make reasonable initial assessments of age, rather than local authority social workers, could put children at further risk. 

Patricia Durr, CEO of ECPAT UK, said

There has been real progress in understanding child trafficking and exploitation in the UK and protecting and supporting child victims.

“Given the commitment in the Immigration Plan to improving support for child victims, I trust that the government will listen to them – they know best how the current system could and should be improved because they experience it every day.

“I urge the government to listen carefully to concerns about the potential impact of these new plans on children and young people and amend them accordingly to ensure that every child victim is identified, safeguarded and supported. If not, more traumatised children will be lost, placed in more danger and at risk of further exploitation, criminalisation and removal.” 

ENDS

Press contact

Sinead Geoghegan, Communications and Media Manager, ECPAT UK, comms@ecpat.org.uk, 07402 113 985


Freemovement:

Why Sticking to the Refugee Convention Still Matters

When someone says that refugees should claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, what they really mean is that other countries should look after refugees. They want others to do what they would not do themselves. Their words are really addressed to the countries through which the refugee has passed on their journey to us. France should look after the refugees and take them back from us. If not France, then Greece. If not Greece, then Turkey. If not Turkey, then Iran. And so on. Those countries should “step up” (Shaun Bailey, Conservative MP for West Bromwich West). Not us. They have “a moral duty and a responsibility” (Priti Patel, Home Secretary for the United Kingdom). Not us.

These responses very obviously ignore what other countries are already doing. In 2019 the UK received 52,000 asylum seekers in total, including refugees entering on our resettlement scheme. France received 157,000. Officially Greece received 70,000, although their asylum registration system has broken down. Turkey already hosts 4,000,000 refugees. Iran already hosts close to 1,000,000 refugees. To suggest we are already doing more than we should and these other countries should “step up” is manifestly absurd.

and: https://www.freemovement.org.uk/a-first-look-at-the-new-plan-for-immigration/