In response to the Government’s announcement to extend the list of so-called ‘safe’ countries to include Brazil, Equador, Bolivia, South Africa, Ukraine, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, the Refugee Council’s acting chief executive, Margaret Lally said:
“This worrying assumption by the Government that asylum seekers are the equivalent of ‘guilty before proven innocent’ could leave vulnerable individuals sent home to face persecution.
“The inclusion of Sri Lanka on this list proves once again that the Government does not take protection of refugees seriously.
The number of asylum seekers from Sri Lanka has reduced significantly as a consequence of greater confidence in the Norwegian-backed peace process, but the situation remains fragile and many individuals are still at risk, as evidenced by the 170 successful appeals in the first three months of this year.
Under the new proposals these 170 individuals would have been denied their right to appeal their erroneous Home Office decision within the UK.”
Asylum applicants from countries deemed to be safe by the Home Office will have no right of appeal in the UK if their claims are refused and certified as ‘clearly unfounded’. The only right applicants whose claims have been certified have is a ‘non-suspensive appeal’ against the certification, which they can only make from outside the UK.
Failed asylum applicants from countries designated as ‘safe’ are fast-tracked through Oakington reception centre in Cambridgeshire, where people are held under detention powers. The current additions bring the ‘white list’ to a total of twenty-four countries.
The first list of countries from where asylum claims will have no right of appeal in the UK if their claims are refused was announced on 7 October 2002. The list consisted of the ten EU accession countries: Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, the Slovak Republic and Slovenia.
The second list was announced on 6 February 2003, and included Albania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania and Serbia and Montenegro.