New report reveals UK border controls may be putting refugees in danger - Refugee Council
December 17, 2008

New report reveals UK border controls may be putting refugees in danger

Brand new research published today by the Refugee Council shows UK border controls in countries outside Britain are failing to protect refugees who may be fleeing persecution in their home countries.

A wide ranging series of interviews, coupled with fieldwork in Turkey, one of the common transit countries to the UK, revealed that UK border controls may result in refugees being sent back to the country of persecution.

Officials employed by the British government and stationed out in transit countries are briefed to stop people coming to the UK without proper documents, despite the fact that refugees are generally unable to get documents from the governments that persecute them. These officials, and the airline personnel who work with them, have no method of identifying those who desperately need to get to safety.

The report, Remote Controls: How UK border controls are endangering the lives of refugees, reveals the UK has implemented a series of measures that extend its border controls far beyond its shores. Immigration officials are posted to refugee countries of origin, such as Sri Lanka, and transit, such as South Africa, a country which is used by Zimbabweans as a route to safety.

Visa regimes, carrier sanctions, and Airline Liaison Officers based in foreign airports, also exist to control travel to the UK, without any allowance for the need for refugees to get to safety. As a result, many end up stranded in countries such as Turkey that have limited provision for refugees, and which may end up sending refugees back to their country of origin, potentially seriously endangering their lives.

Those that avoid this often set out on perilous journeys to find safety, and have to take huge risks not to get caught—the human consequences of this risk can often be found washed up on Europe’s shores.

Donna Covey, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council said:

“It is impossible to overemphasise how serious the consequences may possibly be. Of course a state has to control its borders – that is the world we live in. But to do so with no regard to the safety of the people you are keeping out—well, that is scandalous. We have no idea how many people we are sending to their deaths, by stopping them from getting on a plane, or by refusing to let them leave a country without a visa.

“We are not saying everybody should come here. And of course, only a tiny proportion of the world’s refugees do try and come here. What we are saying is that all UK border controls should contain a safeguard to ensure that the government is not directly or indirectly responsible for sending someone to their death.”


Testimony contained in the report:

“It was so difficult but that is the Sahara, is so big, you can’t imagine what is the difficulties there, it’s so dry… how many people died… during my journey not one died but on the way, you saw, on the way the people died on the floor, there are bones, there are these things.” (SA, refugee, London)

“I had no choice, I could not have used the Zimbabwean passport and come into the UK. I couldn’t.” (KI, refugee, Leeds)

“When people they come this country, they ready to die.” (AB, refugee, London)