In the 2019 Conservative party manifesto, there is one mention of asylum seekers and refugees. This statement claims that the government will continue to support refugees who are fleeing from life-threatening conflict but states that the “ultimate aim” is to return them when it is safe to do so. In this post, we examine the government’s record on asylum and cast down over their commitment to safeguarding the most vulnerable in our society.
Removing the child refugee pledge
As of writing this post, the government has decided to drop protections for child refugees from the EU withdrawal agreement bill. The bill was passed by a majority of 348 against 252.
The measure was previously accepted by the government of Theresa May and would allow unaccompanied child refugees to be reunited with family residing in the UK post-Brexit. She has however voted against the measure and with the government.
Labour’s Lord Dubs, who came to the UK as a Jewish refugee when he was a child, had vigorously campaigned for the measure.
Priti Patel, the current Home Secretary, has defended the measure by pledging to provide strong support for family reunion but adding that the proper place is not in this legislation.
The Home Office also has a track record of hostility towards LGBT asylum seekers. In 2019, it was reported that the Home Office had refused at least 3,100 LGBT asylum claims from countries where homosexuality is criminalised, this includes Pakistan, Nigeria and Bangladesh.
Applicants have been routinely subject to degrading, and inappropriate questioning over their personal life as Home Office caseworkers deciding on the matter are tasked with seeking out a reason for refusal. Applicants are forced to relive trauma and to be as detailed as possible so that their application is seen as credible. Frequently, the reason given for refusal is disbelief that the applicant is actually gay.
This has often reached absurd lengths with one judge claiming that he did not believe the applicant because he did not have a “gay demeanour”. The judge then went on to contrast the applicant’s appearance with that of a stereotype of gay men being more effeminate and vainer.
Overworked and underpaid
In 2018, two whistle-blowers at the Home Office revealed the level of dysfunction at the Home Office as staff are reportedly overworked and underpaid.
In a year, decision-makers are expected to have conducted 225 interviews or have completed 225 decision reports. Under such circumstances, it became commonplace for decision-makers to cut corners and not to take issues on a case by case purpose. Instead, they would often simply copy and paste a previous decision that they had made.
Worse yet, a culture of hostility existed towards applicants with some caseworkers taking pride in refusing applicants. The whistle-blowers reported that staff would often mock applicants amongst themselves and would enjoy intimidating applicants during the interview.
Failure to act
The Home Office has also been negligent in terms of responding to applications often pushing them back for as long as possible. The Home Office must recognise when dealing with people who are fleeing for their lives; this refusal to act promptly will inevitably leave them at risk.
In one case, a rape survivor who fled Afghanistan with her children applied for asylum in the UK but was delayed significantly, allowing her husband to track her down and stab her in an eye.
The woman, who has not been named for confidentiality reasons, was raped by a man who was not her husband and fled out of fear of the violence her husband would inflict upon her. She was able to get to France but wished for shelter with her sister, who was living in the UK.
Whilst in France she sent numerous correspondence letters to the Home Office which were routinely ignored. Her husband was able to track her down in France and attacked with a knife to her right eye. He would have taken out her other eye but, thankfully, she was able to push him away and flee.
It was only after the woman was able to obtain a court order which mandated that the Home Office hear her case that they finally relented and granted her and her children asylum. However, as of writing, they are still in France.
A war on asylum
As Britain gears towards Brexit, it seems the government are willing to cater to demands of far-right nationalists and to create an even more recalcitrant immigration system. One which worsens the lives of the most vulnerable.
Westkin Associates has a proud history of defending the rights of asylum seekers and has stood by those who seek entry into Britain for a better life. Our lawyers have a proven track record of refuting wrongful decisions by the Home Office and will continue to fight for the legal rights of migrants.