Migrants rescued in the English Channel by British authorities (archives). Credit: Picture alliance
Migrants rescued in the English Channel by British authorities (archives). Credit: Picture alliance

Last week, the British Home Secretary presented a reform of the asylum system to the House of Commons that would no longer grant the same rights to people who have entered the country irregularly instead of legally. NGOs denounced the measure as "cruel and inhumane".

Tightening immigration conditions was a hobbyhorse of Brexit supporters. British Home Secretary Priti Patel, known for her tough stance on the issue, presented an asylum reform to the House of Commons on March 24, which the government described as "the biggest overhaul of the UK's asylum system in decades."

Patel plans to stop giving the same rights to people who have entered the country legally and irregularly. "If, like more than 60 per cent of illegal arrivals, [migrants] have travelled through a safe country like France to get here, they will not be able to enter the asylum system immediately, as is currently the case," the minister said in a statement.

A temporary protection permit for migrants who have entered illegally

Under the government's new reform, migrants who have entered England irregularly and whose asylum applications are successful will receive a new, temporary protection status, rather than an automatic right to settle. They will have this status regularly reassessed for potential deportation from the UK. In addition, their rights to family reunification and access to social benefits will be limited.

As for those whose asylum applications are examined and refused, they will be deported from the UK "quickly".

Conversely, those who arrive in the country through a legal resettlement route will be able to settle in the UK permanently. Currently, resettled refugees are given permission to stay in the country for five years, after which they must apply for a new residence permit, this time for an indefinite period.

According to British media reports, the minister is also considering keeping asylum seekers in a foreign country while their cases are being processed.

Finally, the government wants the penalties for migrants who attempt to enter the country illegally to be increased, and smugglers to be sentenced to life in prison.

An 'inhumane' reform

Priti Patel recognizes "the toughness of these actions" but believes they are "undeniably fair" because they will "save lives and target smugglers."

That answer doesn’t reassure the humanitarian community, which is worried about the proposed policy. The Red Cross called it "inhumane". "These proposals create an unfair two-speed system, in which a person's case and the support they receive are judged on how they entered the country and not on their need for protection," said Mike Adamson, director general of the British Red Cross.

For Tim Noar, director of the NGO Refugee Action, "these cruel and unjust proposals represent the biggest attack on asylum rights ever seen" in the UK.

At the end of January, the United Kingdom had already taken drastic measures regarding unaccompanied minors, ending the Dubs Amendment signed in March 2016. The text was a type of "super fast and simplified transfer protocol" for unaccompanied young people who wanted to come to England.

Children who want to join a relative in the United Kingdom will still be able to do so, thanks to the existing immigration rules in Great Britain. This is a strict procedure, as the family reunification application under English law is much more restrictive than the Dubs amendment.


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