A paper produced by the Quaker Asylum and Refugee Network , QARN, suggests some important changes to the way we treat refugees. It urges people to email election candidates with positive suggestions for improving a cruel and inhumane system, and to correct the lies about migrants.
“Asylum seekers and Refugees: What do Quakers hope for, after the 2024 General Election”, lists crucial policies to improve our response.
The paper asks for:
A humane, coordinated international response. Currently, poorer countries are hosting 83 per cent of the world’s refugees. Those who make their way to the UK often do so because they have a link to our country. The UK should uphold the international laws protecting refugees and work constructively with other countries to plan a humane response.
Faster, fairer asylum decisions. More than two-thirds of asylum seekers are having to wait over six months for a decision. We should invest in effective legal help so that refugees can present their case properly. The problem of expensive and unsuitable accommodation like crowded barges and hotels would be solved if cases were resolved more quickly.
Lift the ban on asylum seekers working. Currently they must wait 12 months before they can work, and then only in shortage occupations. Nearly all are keen to work and their contribution would benefit our economy by boosting tax revenue and reducing labour shortages. A YouGov poll has found that 81 per cent of the UK public support asylum seekers’ right to work.
Safe and regular routes. Unless you are coming from Ukraine or Hong Kong, or are among the handful selected from a UN resettlement scheme, there is no way to get permission to travel to the UK in advance. Refugees can only claim asylum once they arrive. This increases the risk of dangerous journeys, and between 2018 and 2022, 61 per cent of people arriving in small boats were granted refugee protection or other leave to remain.
A similar online system of permission to travel to the UK as used by Ukrainians and Hong Kong nationals should be available to all asylum seekers.
The Illegal Migration Act violates the UK’s commitments under the Refugee Convention and should be radically amended or repealed. A 2022 Ipsos Mori poll found that 80 per cent of people believed people facing war and persecution should be able to take refuge in other countries, including the UK.
Alternatives to unjust and inhumane immigration detention. People should not be locked up without judicial oversight. Child asylum seekers should never be imprisoned. A successful ‘Alternatives to Detention’ pilot in 2019-2021 supported 20 women asylum seekers with one-to-one support, English classes and legal access.It cost half as much as immigration detention and was much better for the women’s health and wellbeing.
End exorbitant fees for migrants who have “leave to remain”. Currently, these refugees are charged around £13,000 over a ten-year period and it leaves many in low-skilled jobs unable to afford food and bills. This sum is more than seven times what the Home Office administration costs. In 2023, these fees were increased by 66 per cent.
Reduce the time to five years before applying for permanent residence. The visa renewal fees should only cover admin costs. Those paying UK taxes should not have to pay the NHS surcharge, which is planned to increase to £2,587 each time a visa is renewed.