UK General Election 2024: Frequently Asked Questions on Refugee and Asylum Issues - Refugee Council
June 7, 2024

UK General Election 2024: Frequently Asked Questions on Refugee and Asylum Issues

As the United Kingdom gears up for the 2024 General Election on 4 July, there is likely to be a big focus from politicians of all parties on refugee and asylum issues.

We’d like to answer some commonly asked questions here, and we will be updating this page throughout the campaign.

 

What is the current status of the Rwanda scheme and the Illegal Migration Act?

On Thursday 23 May, the day after the election was called, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak confirmed to the media that no flights to Rwanda will be sent before the election, but that the scheme will begin if the Conservative Party win the election.

UK Government lawyers have however confirmed to the High Court that, under the current plans, the first flight would not leave until 24 July, 2024.

 

The Government began detaining people at the end of April under “Operation Vector”. This included people who had been in the UK for several years who had immigration reporting conditions.

The Home Office have been facing a range of legal challenges however, with lawyers on behalf of detained asylum seekers arguing that there is no justification for people to be detained given the Prime Minister’s announcement that flights will not begin until after the election and only if the Conservative Party win.

The Refugee Council is calling on the Government to release all those who are currently detained and publish the statistics on how many people remain in detention.

 

 

Passed by Parliament in July 2023, the Illegal Migration Act (IMA) declares any asylum claim from someone who arrived here irregularly as “inadmissible”, meaning the claim will not be assessed. There is also a statutory duty on the Home Secretary to remove anyone arriving irregularly after the Act passed.

At the time of the election however, the Illegal Migration Act’s main provisions including the automatic inadmissibility and duty to remove people arriving have not come into force and nobody has been sent to Rwanda.

There are thousands of people who have arrived to the UK since the Illegal Migration Act legislation was introduced to Parliament in March 2023 who have not had their claims processed and remain in limbo. Read more about the IMA in our latest report on the meltdown in the asylum system.

 

 

What are political parties proposing on refugee and asylum issues?

  • The Rwanda scheme is to begin immediately after the election, with a regular rhythm of flights “until the boats are stopped”.
  • They will bring the Illegal Migration Act into force and always choose the jurisdiction of domestic courts over the European Court of Human Rights.
  • Pledging to clear the asylum backlog and end the use of hotels within six months.
  • The Conservatives plan to hold an international summit to reform laws in an “age of mass migration”.
  • They have re-committed to the introduction of a cap on numbers coming via safe routes based on capacity of local areas.

  • They have pledged to scrap the Rwanda Plan and the Illegal Migration Act.
  • The Liberal Democrats would give asylum seekers the right to work if they have waited longer than three months for a decision on their claim.
  • They have set out several new safe routes for refugees they would enact in Government, including the introduction of a “humanitarian travel permit”, expanding family reunion and community sponsorship and expanding refugee resettlement
  • They have committed to extend the refugee move-on period to 60 days and would only use immigration detention as an absolute last resort

  • The SNP have been one of the staunchest critics of the Rwanda scheme over the last two years. The SNP have said that an independent Scotland would allow people seeking asylum to work and claim benefits.

  • They have pledged to end the hostile environment and introduce safe routes to sanctuary.
  • The Greens say they will replace the Home Office with a Department for Migration and separate this from criminal justice policy-making
  • They have committed to a right-to-work for people seeking asylum and the abolition of no recourse to public funds and immigration detention in most cases.

As of the end of March 2024, there are still 28,488 people being accommodated in hotels, despite the Government’s intention to close all hotels and return them to the community.

 

What does the bigger picture on refugee and asylum issues look like?

The new Government will face immediate challenges in relation to:

  • The asylum backlog: despite efforts to reduce the “legacy” pre-June 2022 backlog, as of end of March 2024 there were still over 118,000 people in the asylum backlog. A quarter of these claims are over a year old.
  • Appeals backlog: the efforts to reduce the asylum backlog has already seen 13,253 asylum claims refused in the first three months of 2024, and a new Government can expect an increase in appeals as cases are processed and determined.
  • As of the end of March 2024, there are still 28,488 people being accommodated in hotels, despite the Government’s intention to close all hotels and return them to the community.
  • Safe routes: resettlement numbers were at their lowest level in a decade with only 766 people being resettled in the past year. Plans to reunite people arriving from Afghanistan in 2021 with families members there have not materialised.

Despite the Government’s aim to “Stop the Boats”, small boat crossings have continued to increase. As of June 2024, the number of people arriving this year is 10,745—up 41% on the same period last year and a record since current monitoring of small boat arrivals began in 2018.

96% of people arriving in the last year are still waiting for a decision on their claim and over half arriving since 2022 do not have a decision.

The top ten countries people seeking asylum in the UK come from are Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea, India, Turkey, Sudan, Bangladesh, Syria and Vietnam. Many of these countries are experiencing war, and people are fleeing desperate situations to seek safety. Grant rates for many of these countries are over 80%, meaning the vast majority would have their claims for asylum accepted.

Currently, there are very few safe and legal ways for people to come to the UK to claim asylum, and people are unable to claim asylum in the UK unless they are actually on UK soil. People are therefore left with no choice but to risk their lives on extremely dangerous journeys to make the crossing to the UK in the hope of finding safety here.

 

The Refugee Council believes that in order to end the chaos in our asylum system, and rebuild a system based instead on compassion and fairness the next Government must:

  1. As soon as possible, the new Government should repeal the Illegal Migration Act in full and introduce workable legislation to improve the asylum system.
  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.
  3. Introduce a National Refugee Strategy to improve refugee integration, including extending the refugee move-on period and a place-based approach to accommodation in partnership with local authorities
  4. Create more safe routes for refugees to reach the UK and increase international cooperation. The Government must focus on improving the family reunion rules, piloting a refugee visa and increasing refugee resettlement alongside restoring the right to asylum by repealing the Illegal Migration Act.
  5. Uphold the rights of unaccompanied asylum seeking children, including by conducting Merton-compliant age assessments where necessary and ensuring separated children receive support from Local Authorities under the provisions of the 1989 Children Act.