Learn from the election campaign, it’s time for a new approach on asylum, says Refugee Council
The Refugee Council today urges the government to take a fresh approach towards asylum policy. Today’s Queen’s Speech is expected to contain yet another immigration and asylum bill. But the Refugee Council is warning a new bill won’t work unless its aim is real reform of the asylum system.
Despite repeated crackdowns and a substantial drop in numbers, the government has failed to reassure the public that the system is under control. As the recent General Election campaign showed, myths and scare stories are still widely believed and can be easily exploited. Another round of “get tough” measures is not the answer. It is time for the government to take a moral lead, to defend the right to asylum and to confront the real problems in the asylum system.
Despite the controversy, there is a large degree of consensus on the reforms needed. In the last eighteen months, many bodies and organisations, including various cross-party select committees and the National Audit Office, have called for urgent action to improve the quality of decision-making on asylum claims.
Successive policy changes have not addressed this central problem, but instead have undermined public confidence in the system. The Refugee Council believes it is time for genuine reform – which could include establishing an independent, non-political decision-making body and allowing asylum seekers the right to work.
Maeve Sherlock, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:
“During the election campaign, the Prime Minister stood up for the Refugee Convention, said asylum shouldn’t be exploited as a political issue and said the system should be based on fairness. I hope that this more positive message will be reflected in the new bill.
“Everyone wants an asylum system they can trust. They want to know that the right decisions are being made, that the process is fair, that people who need a place of safety here are able to get it, and those that don’t are removed quickly, humanely and with dignity.”
“It is time to look at passing the decision-making process to a body independent of the government – and to change the policy that forbids asylum seekers from working and forces them to live off benefits.”
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