Humanists Ask the UK Government to Rethink the New Plan for Immigration

We recently signed a joint letter coordinated by the Scottish Refugee Council that set out our grave concerns about the New Plan for Immigration and its potential to seriously undermine refugee rights in the UK. The full text of the letter can be found here, but in summary the letter (signed by 81 organisations representing bodies from Scottish civil society and faith and belief communities) raised serious concerns about the following aspects of the New Plan:

  • It does not take into account the widespread commitment in Scotland to play a role in refugee protection, and runs counter to Scotland’s New Scots Refugee Integration Strategy which strives to ensure equal support to people across Scotland regardless of how refugees arrived in the country.
  • It will detach the UK from international refugee law and render many people seeking refugee protection in the UK ineligible for asylum by shifting the basis for protection from ‘a well founded fear of persecution’ to focus instead on the way people travelled to the UK in order to seek safety.  
  • In discriminating between people who arrive via resettlement and those reaching the UK in other ways, the New Plan institutes a two-tier refugee system, premised on a wilful ignorance of the context in which refugee flight occurs. 
  • The UK asylum system does need reform, but this is not due to external pressure. In fact, the UK accounts for relatively few asylum seekers in Europe and a mere fraction of those displaced globally, and the problems that need to be solved in the UK asylum system are internal and not addressed by the New Plan. 
  • Consultation on the New Plan happened during the purdah for devolved parliaments, local authority, and mayoral elections in the UK, effectively silencing a swathe of governance and the communities they represent. Most importantly, the outsourced and inaccessible consultation made no attempt to prioritise the experiences of those who have directly experienced the UK asylum system.
  • Many proposals directly impinge on the legislative and executive competences of the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government, such as the legal system, anti-trafficking legislation and age assessment process. This further undermines and corrodes intra-UK governance relations. 

The letter was sent to the Prime Minister, the Secretary of State, and the Secretary of State for Scotland, and garnered a response from Chris Philp MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Home Office and Ministry of Justice. His response did not answer any of the substantive concerns about the New Plan for Immigration raised in the letter, or address the grave consequences we fear its proposals will have for refugee rights in the UK. 

The majority of people in Scotland want a fair and humane asylum system built on compassion, decency, and common sense, so that people have their refugee applications considered quickly, fairly, and efficiently – regardless of how they got to the UK. We will continue to support the work of the Scottish Refugee Council as they challenge the New Plan, and as they call  for the UK Government to engage meaningfully with the devolved governments to ensure that a fair and humane asylum system can be developed that works for all four nations of the UK. 

 

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