Government plans will lead to tens of thousands of refugees being locked up like criminals - Refugee Council
March 6, 2023

Government plans will lead to tens of thousands of refugees being locked up like criminals

New legislation to be introduced by the government this week will result in tens of thousands of refugees who would have been granted asylum in the UK being locked up in detention treated as criminals, according to the Refugee Council.

Analysis by the charity shows that of all those who crossed the Channel last year two thirds would be granted asylum.

Half (48%) were from Afghanistan, Iran, Eritrea, Sudan or Syrian. Applications from all those countries are granted in at least 80% of cases and for three—Afghanistan Eritrea and Syria—it is 98%.

Last year three quarters of all those who applied for asylum were allowed to stay in the UK the highest proportion for 30 years. Just under half (45%) came on small boats.

The Refugee Council’s analysis shows the Government’s legislation that will prevent anyone who crossed the channel from having their asylum claim processed would leave over 45,000 at risk of destitution and homelessness each year, stuck in limbo and facing long periods locked up in detention.

The cost to the taxpayer based on the Home Office prediction of 65,000 making the crossing in 2023 would be £219m per year for 28 days in detention or £1.4bn for six months.

Most of those crossing the Channel are people fleeing war-torn or oppressive countries where no safe and formal routes such as refugee visas exist for making an asylum claim in the UK.  This is in contrast to those escaping the war in Ukraine, where more than 200,000 visas have been issued under a UK refugee scheme.

The Refugee Council says safe routes for the main nationalities crossing the channel have been drastically reduced – resettlement numbers are 75 per cent lower than in 2019 and the number of family reunion visas issued is 40 per cent below the pre-pandemic level.  For example, thousands of Iranians crossed the channel but just nine were resettled to the UK between January and September 2022.

Enver Solomon CEO Refugee Council said:

“These plans shatter the UK’s long-standing commitment under the UN Convention to give people a fair hearing regardless of the path they have taken to reach our shores. They will simply add more cost and chaos to the system.

“The majority of the men, women and children who cross the Channel do so because they are desperate to escape war, conflict and persecution.

“The Government’s flawed legislation will not stop the boats but result in tens of thousands locked up in detention at huge cost, permanently in limbo and being treated as criminals simply for seeking refuge. It’s unworkable, costly and won’t stop the boats.

“It is not a crime to seek safety. No parent sends a child on a desperately dangerous journey without good reason.

“We need a sensible and humane plan that focuses on compassion and competence creating safe and orderly routes for refugees to reach the UK, such as refugee visas,  a fair asylum system with timely decision making and  a workable agreement with our European partners to share responsibility for all those who want sanctuary in the region.”