General Election 2024: Priorities for the next Government on the right to asylum - Refugee Council
June 14, 2024

General Election 2024: Priorities for the next Government on the right to asylum

In the first of our General Election blog series, we focus on the steps a new Government must take to restore our asylum system and give refugees the chance to rebuild their lives on UK soil.

What is the issue?

Over the last two years, the Government have introduced three pieces of legislation which have all but closed down the ability of refugees to claim asylum here.

Most recently, the Illegal Migration Act (which passed in July 2023 but has still not been fully implemented) introduces:

  • a duty on the Home Secretary to remove people who have come to the UK irregularly.
  • automatic and permanent inadmissibility of asylum claims, meaning that asylum claims cannot be considered.

Just before the election was called, the Government were beginning a process of detaining people in readiness for removal to Rwanda. This has been paused due to the General Election.

The governing Conservative Party have said they would continue with the Rwanda plan if they win the election but other parties have said they would scrap it. You can read more about party positions in our General Election FAQ.

What is a new Government likely to inherit?

At the Refugee Council, we have recently spoken out about the meltdown in the asylum system as a result of the Government’s Illegal Migration Act and Rwanda plan.

There are going to be some big issues the next Government must immediately tackle:

  • The backlog 120,000+ people are waiting for a decision on their asylum claim, including a quarter who have been waiting for more than a year. As the Government deals with cases, there will also be a higher number of appeals lodged to challenge decisions.
  • Hotels 28,000+ people are being accommodated in asylum hotels, including children who have been wrongly assessed as adults.
  • Channel crossings 73% of people who crossed the channel last year would be recognised as refugees if we processed their claims but 96% are still waiting for a decision. Channel crossings in the first quarter of 2024 were highest on record when compared to the same period in previous years.

What are we proposing a new Government should do?

Founded in 1951 after the creation of the UN Refugee Convention, the Refugee Council will always stand up for the right of refugees to claim asylum in the UK.

There is nothing in the Convention that states refugees must claim asylum in the first safe country they reach, and people coming to the UK are doing so to reunite with family, or because of cultural or language ties to the UK.

To reinstate the right to asylum and improve the system, the next Government should prioritise:

  1. Repealing the Illegal Migration Act in full and introduce workable legislation to improve the asylum system. This should include guaranteeing the rights of those who arrived after March 2023 when the Illegal Migration Act was introduced to Parliament.
  2. Start processing asylum claims again, so that people recognised as refugees can build new lives in the UK and those without protection needs can be removed safely and humanely. The Government should ensure people from high grant rate countries are swiftly granted status.

Over the election campaign we will release more blogs posts with additional recommendations on our other priority areas: safe routes, refugee integration and refugee children.

What impact will this have?

Last year the Refugee Council services supported thousands of people who had been through the UK’s asylum system with therapeutic support, integration and employment support. But the Government’s plans placed a huge toll on refugees who feared being sent to Rwanda and had been left living in hotels or in unsuitable accommodation for months on end, with no prospect of rebuilding their lives here.

Our research into the human impact of Rwanda found that the current plans would drive people to take more dangerous journeys and go underground, at risk of harm and exploitation. A compassionate and fair system which upholds the right to asylum and processes claims in an orderly manner will be the first step to ending the meltdown and improving the lives of refugees.

Read our next blog post on the General Election 2024, in which we share our thoughts on the priorities for the next Government on refugee homelessness.

We also have a list of frequently asked questions on refugee and asylum issues as they pertain to the upcoming election.