Brexit: refugee protection and asylum policy Contents

Chapter 5: Future UK asylum policy

171.In undertaking this inquiry, we set out to explore the implications of Brexit for UK asylum policy, and the potential framework for future UK-EU asylum cooperation. But we also received a substantial amount of evidence on the operation of the UK asylum system, independent of any Brexit considerations.

172.In December 2018, the Government published a White Paper setting out its vision for the post-Brexit UK immigration system—including asylum and refugee resettlement—and launched a year-long consultation on these proposals.158 In this context, in this Chapter we consider the evidence we heard on the shortcomings of the UK asylum system, and on priorities for its future improvement.

Criticisms of the UK asylum system

Family reunion

173.In 2016, in response to concerns raised by stakeholders in the asylum and refugee sector, the UK Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Bolt, undertook an inspection of the process for family reunion applications. Overall, the inspection found that the Home Office was too ready to refuse family reunion applications on the basis of insufficient evidence, when giving the applicant more time to produce more evidence might have been a fairer and more efficient approach.159

174.In evidence, David Bolt explained that his inspection report had made ten recommendations to improve the Home Office’s handling of family reunion cases. A particular concern had been that the Department had handled family reunion applications as if they were visit visa applications:

“It seemed that that was missing the point of what family reunion applications were all about. Essentially these were asylum-related and humanitarian protection cases, which required a different sort of approach. The readiness to refuse came from seeing them as the wrong thing.”

Mr Bolt noted that the Home Office immediately issued a revision to its guidance on family reunion, which “appeared to make an improvement”. Despite this, follow-up inspections revealed that improvements to other aspects of the family reunion process had not moved on as he had hoped.160

175.Evidence from other witnesses shows that stakeholders continue to have significant concerns over the process for reuniting refugee families in the UK.

Eligibility criteria

176.As noted above (paragraph 40), under UK family reunion rules, refugees are only able to sponsor their spouse or same sex partner and dependent minor children to join them in the UK; refugee children are not allowed to act as sponsors.

177.The Refugee Council said that restrictions on children sponsoring family members meant the UK had failed to provide for the best interests of child refugees, “ignoring the potential integration support that family unity can provide, and condemning some individuals to never see family members again”.161 Judith Dennis told us that NGOs and other EU Member States were “shocked, surprised and horrified” by the UK’s policy to prevent family reunification for unaccompanied children recognised as refugees, who could not safely go back to their country of origin.162

178.Jon Featonby told us that refugee families were put in difficult positions by the inflexibility of UK family reunion rules:

“We have seen parents able to bring over maybe their wife and two children under 18 but facing a very difficult decision about what they might do with their 18- or 19-year-old daughter, who would not necessarily fit within those rules but is completely dependent on that family unit and might have to be left somewhere quite dangerous overseas.”163

179.Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor also criticised the lack of provision to extend the right of family reunification to dependent adults: “What family would leave behind an 18-year-old, particularly in countries where a single woman not protected by her family is often in serious jeopardy?”164

Evidence requirements

180.Safe Passage said that evidential requirements continued to be a problem in family reunion applications, arguing that the Home Office applied “an excessively high standard of proof” and failed to “appropriately assess the evidence available”. This frequently resulted in cases of family reunion applications being denied, “citing insufficient evidence regarding the family link, only to be subsequently accepted after a lengthy re-examination process”.165

181.Eleanor Harrison explained:

“We are finding that the Home Office … is using very small differences to argue that there is no evidence. For example, there can be differences in names on paperwork. This can happen because there are many transliterations of people’s names from sending to receiving states … Children often do not have access to an interpreter or do not understand the language a date of birth is being registered in. That has been used to reject people.”166

182.ECRU and Liverpool Law Clinic told us that, in some cases, litigation had been required to “persuade the Home Office to carry out its duty of investigation” of evidence on family links.167

Other issues

183.Safe Passage noted that the Home Office regularly exceeded the time limits set out in the Dublin Regulation for family reunion transfer cases. They argued that these delays compounded the trauma that vulnerable child refugees had already experienced, “contributing to a significant and long-lasting impact on [their] mental and physical health”. In the case of one young refugee supported by Safe Passage, delays in processing a take charge request from France had led to the boy becoming street homeless, contracting tuberculosis and pneumonia, and being diagnosed with PTSD.

184.Safe Passage also criticised the Home Office’s communication with applicants for family reunion, suggesting that children and family members were not being given the opportunity to respond to negative decisions or provide further supportive evidence and information.168

Unaccompanied children

185. ECRU and Liverpool Law Clinic said that the UK’s approach to protecting unaccompanied children had been “half-hearted”, noting the Government’s failure to establish a guardianship scheme and provide comprehensive protections in domestic legislation for these children. They were also concerned by “worrying gaps in both the availability and quality of specialist immigration legal advice and support” for unaccompanied children, and by the lack of compulsory training to equip lawyers in the UK to work with vulnerable child refugees.169

General criticisms

Inefficiency

186.Jon Featonby explained the dramatic impact of inefficiency in the UK asylum system upon refugees:

“From the British Red Cross perspective, one of our main challenges is destitution within the asylum and refugee system … Quite often they have fallen destitute because of a lack of joined-up thinking across government, particularly when people move from the asylum system and receive support from the Home Office. Once they are granted refugee status, they then get 28 days to transition to mainstream forms of support. In our experience, too often it is not long enough.”170

187.Eleanor Harrison and Lord Dubs cited the Government’s failure to reach its target for resettlement through the Dubs scheme as another example of inefficiency. Lord Dubs told us that the Government had been slow to get the scheme off the ground, and that only 220 children had arrived so far. While the Home Office has cited problems in finding local authorities willing to take ‘Dubs children’, Eleanor Harris told us that Safe Passage had proactively contacted local authorities in 2019 and found that they were willing to provide resettlement places, but that there seemed to be “a lack of political will or urgency on behalf of the Home Office”.171

A two-tier system?

188.Reflecting on the success of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS), Jon Featonby regretted that lessons had not been carried across to the asylum process for people applying for protection on arrival in the UK. This had created a “two-tier support system”, where people resettled through VPRS received more funding for integration and support, including English language classes, than people coming through the asylum system.172

189.Eleanor Harrison said that the same was true for children, as local authorities received just over £25,000 over five years to support a child with a family who arrived through a resettlement scheme, but were not eligible for the same financial support for unaccompanied children who arrived in the UK spontaneously.173

190.David Bolt agreed that there was a two-tier system, which made it “much more challenging to try to get local authorities to take” refugees who had not arrived through a resettlement programme. He concluded: “Where there is a financial incentive, it is clearly more likely that you will get some take-up from the local authority than when they see it just as a burden and a cost.”174

Timing of integration support

191.Jon Featonby described the support provided by the British Red Cross to refugee families being resettled in the UK, but noted: “None of that preparation can start until the family is here.” Ideally, learning and preparation for integration should begin earlier, before families arrive in the UK.175

192.David Bolt noted that—during the 35 weeks it took between a decision to resettle someone through VPRS and the person actually being brought to the UK—refugees only received one two-day integration workshop. Mr Bolt saw this as a “significant missed opportunity”: there were “many, many weeks when you might be able to give someone English-language training”, putting them in a better position to find work and access other services when they arrived in the UK.176

Other issues

193.ECRU and Liverpool Law Clinic said that cuts in legal aid had limited the availability of “appropriately qualified and sufficiently experienced legal support” for asylum cases. While asylum claims were eligible for legal aid funding, the withdrawal of legal aid from other areas of immigration casework had reduced the number of lawyers prepared to take on such work. This had added to the pressures on “an already over-burdened minority of specialists in the not-for-profit sector” and had increased the number of asylum cases allocated to “underqualified non-specialists”.177

194.The Refugee Council noted that the UK was the only country in Europe not to have a maximum time-limit for immigration detention. Thousands of people were detained each year, costing £100 million annually, and affecting the health and wellbeing of detainees.178 Jon Featonby told us that the indefinite nature of immigration detention was “one of the most harmful things” about this policy, noting that some people had “been in detention for a number of months, if not years”.179

Rhetoric

195.Several witnesses also criticised the rhetoric used to describe asylum seekers in the UK, including by the Government. Refugee Rights Europe, for example, noted a trend among Government departments to refer to asylum seekers as an “influx of migrants”, feeding into a “harmful and largely questionable dichotomy between the ‘deserving refugee’ and ‘undeserving migrant’”. Refugee Rights Europe called on the Government to underline publicly the inalienable right of all people to have their asylum claim assessed, regardless of their country of origin or the means by which they travelled to the UK.180

196.Judith Dennis shared these concerns, noting:

“We cannot judge whether somebody is in need of protection when they are in the middle of the English Channel, for instance. We should probably do more in solidarity with others. In 2015, when people talked about a refugee crisis, it was just that the crisis had reached our doorstep … We also need to speak about asylum as something that we should be proud of, not something to fear.”181

197.The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) commented on the UK Government’s unwillingness publicly to acknowledge the support it provided as a partner on asylum and migration issues at the international level. This unwillingness, combined with negative political rhetoric around asylum seekers at the national level, meant that the UK had lost its moral authority on asylum cooperation internationally. More broadly, the NRC considered that the general unwillingness of governments across Europe to frame the granting of asylum to people in desperate situations as something to be proud of had given a free platform to anti-migration voices to depict asylum seekers as a threat and something to fear.182

Improving the UK’s asylum system

198.Several witnesses commented on the opportunity provided by Brexit for a holistic re-examination of the UK’s asylum system, and expressed disappointment at the lack of detail in the Government’s 2018 Immigration White Paper. Jon Featonby described the White Paper as “underwhelming”, while Alice Lucas noted that it only devoted a few pages to asylum issues. Refugee Rights Europe were frustrated by the Government’s failure to engage with refugee and asylum stakeholders in developing its proposals, and by the lack of clarity on how and to what extent the Government would now consult civil society on those sections of the White Paper relating to refugees.183 Witnesses also made various suggestions for improvements to the UK’s asylum system.

Family reunion

199.The NGOs who gave evidence were all members of the Families Together coalition, which seeks to achieve an expansion of the UK’s refugee family reunion rules, and they drew our attention to a number of key demands:

(a)Giving child refugees in the UK the right to sponsor their parents and siblings under the age of 25;

(b)Expanding the definition of who qualifies as family so that adult refugees in the UK can sponsor their adult children, siblings under the age of 25, and their parents;

(c)The reintroduction of legal aid.184

200.UNHCR is also a member of this coalition, and Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor expressed disappointment that the Immigration White Paper maintained the Government’s position that allowing child refugees to sponsor their parents could create incentives for children to be “encouraged, or even forced, to leave their family and risk hazardous journeys to the UK”. She commented:

“We have not found hard evidence that that is the case; there does not seem to be a correlation between children going to a country and that country’s practice with regard to family reunion.”185

201.We reached a similar conclusion in our 2016 report on unaccompanied migrant children in the EU, finding that some children were in fact reluctant to seek family reunification for fear that it might place their family members in danger. We recommended that the Government reconsider its restrictive position on family reunion, and that it should make legal aid available to unaccompanied children for family reunification proceedings.186 The Government has failed to act on these recommendations.

202.In that report, we also called on the Government to establish a guardianship service in England and Wales for all unaccompanied children, to oversee their participation in the asylum process and identify each child’s best interests. This recommendation was supported by several witnesses in our current inquiry. The Refugee Council, for example, noted that unaccompanied children seeking asylum in Scotland and Northern Ireland had access to independent guardians, but that an equivalent service was only available to children in England and Wales who had experienced modern slavery. They believed that all unaccompanied children should be appointed a guardian, and such guardians “should also have the statutory power to intervene when a child is not receiving the care and support, including access to education, that they are entitled to in law”.187

203.Lord Dubs also supported a guardianship system, but reported concerns expressed by local authorities about the strain this could put on resources:

“As I understand it, in Northern Ireland the guardians are qualified social workers with about five years’ experience, a scarce type of skill … When I put it to a local authority leader in London, the answer was that they do not have enough good social workers with that experience to spare … In short, the principle of the guardians is a good one. They need to be qualified, but we do not seem to have the resources for that at the moment.”188

204.Eleanor Harrison argued that funding for guardians should be provided by central Government, not local authorities. She suggested that this approach could save costs “later down the line”, for example, by avoiding mistakes in a child’s best interests assessment and ensuring that their need for services like mental health support was not exacerbated by a lack of adequate support. As part of this, she said, Safe Passage was calling for “time-bound transition support packages, to provide [child refugees] and their families with financial and integration support until they are able to access other forms of benefits”.189

205.ECRU and Liverpool Law Clinic highlighted an urgent need for “more rigorous training and capacity building” for legal practitioners working in the field of immigration and asylum, in particular to increase knowledge of the requirements of a children’s rights-based approach to legal practice among those representing vulnerable children.190

SOGI asylum claimants

206.The SOGICA Project—a four-year research project on the social and legal experiences of people seeking asylum on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity (SOGI)—told us that there had not been adequate provision for the needs of SOGI asylum claimants under the UK or European asylum systems. They listed a number of recommendations to improve the care and protection of SOGI asylum seekers, including:

Administrative improvements

207.Safe Passage said that a “greater degree of urgency should be underpinning the actions of the Home Office”, which should hold itself to “the highest possible standards by acting with speed and compassion” in handling family reunion transfer requests. Safe Passage called for clear procedures and guidelines confirming the rights of children and family members to information, the provision of sufficient and detailed reasoning when a transfer request is refused, and time limits for processing family reunion cases.193

208.Dr Beirens told us that the UK should focus its efforts to improve implementation of the asylum system on “setting aside investment and human resources, training people and adapting procedures”. She pointed to the positive example of Sweden, Germany and The Netherlands, who had “drastically reviewed their asylum systems in the last couple of years to deal … with how to process asylum claims more swiftly”.194

209.Judith Dennis noted the difficulty of ensuring adequate standards of refugee protection when migration and refugee policies were all “part of the same basket”, with the prioritisation of border control likely to affect people in need of protection. The Refugee Council thought that a cross-departmental Refugee Minister could help to address these challenges, by championing the UK’s role in providing refuge for those in need of protection, and bringing departments together to provide joined-up support for refugees in the UK.195

Resettlement

210.Several witnesses commented on the forthcoming end of the UK’s VPRS and VCRS refugee resettlement programmes. Praising these programmes, Judith Dennis and Jon Featonby hoped that lessons learned from them would feed into future resettlement schemes. They called for the refugee resettlement in the UK to be taken forward under one programme, with the following key features:

Judith Dennis further noted that the funding available to local authorities supporting refugees, particularly unaccompanied children, should be consistent regardless of how they arrived in the UK and their age. Local authorities should be able to decide what kind of support to provide in the individual’s best interests without being influenced by different rates of funding.196

211.David Bolt thought that clear ministerial direction and appropriate funding were the key ingredients of success for refugee resettlement. Mr Bolt suggested that the Government should also increase the number of areas in which asylum accommodation was available, to address “the concentration of asylum seekers or refugees in particular locations”.197

Future targets for refugee resettlement

212.The British Red Cross and Refugee Council both argued that, for the UK to maintain its position as a global leader in refugee resettlement, future programmes should be more ambitious in terms of resettlement numbers. They called on the Government to commit to UNHCR’s suggested target of resettling 10,000 refugees in the UK each year.198

213.As part of their Kindertransport Anniversary Campaign, Lord Dubs and Safe Passage called for the Government to mark the 80th anniversary of the Kindertransport—when the UK took in 10,000 unaccompanied children from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia between 1938–1939—by committing to resettle 1,000 refugee children per year, as part of the UNHCR’s overall annual target of 10,000.199

214.During our inquiry, the Government announced a new global resettlement scheme, which would start in 2020 and consolidate the UK’s VPRS, VCRS, and gateway resettlement programmes. The new programme would aim to resettle 5,000 refugees in its first year, be simpler to operate than predecessor schemes, and provide greater consistency in the way the Government resettled refugees.200

215.Prof Guild described the proposed target for the new UK resettlement programme as “pretty unambitious” and “a drop in the bucket”, in the context of approximately 70 million displaced people worldwide, but acknowledged it was “a good drop in the bucket”. Colin Yeo added: “It is not nothing: it is a big improvement on what we had before, when the numbers were much smaller. But it could be a lot more.”201

External aspects

216.As noted above (paragraph 79), after Brexit the UK will no longer be covered by the EU’s Readmissions Agreements with third countries, which facilitate the return of non-EU nationals who do not have the legal right to stay in the EU, including rejected asylum seekers. Prof Ryan and Alan Desmond saw no objection to the UK negotiating new readmission agreements in its own right, subject to the following conditions:

217.ECRU and Liverpool Law Clinic suggested that the UK had “a record of dangerous removals” and stressed that future readmission arrangements must “adequately protect any persons subject to their terms” and meet the UK’s international obligations.203 Refugee Rights Europe agreed, arguing that the Government should carry out human rights impact assessments as part of negotiating readmissions agreements, and that agreements should incorporate conditions including respect for the principle of non-refoulement; access to a fair asylum procedure and right to effective remedy; access to information and legal assistance; safe and adequate reception conditions; access to family reunification procedures; and no risk of arbitrary detention.204

218.Refugee Rights Europe also argued that human rights impact assessments should be a key feature of EU or UK efforts to “externalise” migration management, by cooperating with third countries to prevent people from coming to Europe, or, to process asylum claims in ‘regional disembarkation centres’ outside Europe or ‘controlled centres’ within Europe.205

219.Colin Yeo went further, telling us that there were “very strong arguments” that a system of externalising migration management would be incompatible with the Refugee Convention, and so would face “legal obstacles”. He noted that the EU had been discussing such a policy for many years, and questioned whether it was closer to materialising now than before.206

220.Dr Beirens told us:

“The idea of controlled centres or temporary arrangements is under a lot of pressure and question … neither construct has materialised for the moment. The African Union and the separate African countries have said, ‘One of those regional disembarkation centres will not be in my back yard’. When it comes to controlled centres, that is also not being discussed for the moment. The principles underpinning it are still being discussed.”207

The Norwegian asylum system

221.An overview of the Norwegian asylum system—based on the information we received during our visit to Oslo in June 2019 (see Appendix 4)—is set out below.

Routes to asylum in Norway

222.The number of people arriving to make asylum claims in Norway differs substantially from year to year. We heard that in 2018–19 numbers had been relatively low. Like the UK, Norway operates a resettlement programme, with refugees identified by UNHCR. Target numbers of refugees to be resettled through this programme are decided each year by the Storting (the Norwegian Parliament); the 2019 quota is 3,000 people.

223.Norway maintains a list of countries whose citizens are deemed to have no reason to need international protection, to facilitate the rapid identification and removal of ineligible asylum applicants. Asylum applications from citizens of countries on this list are prioritised to ensure those likely to receive a negative decision can be returned as quickly as possible.

224.For other cases, it takes on average three to six months to reach an initial decision, and 65% of claimants receive permission to stay in Norway. As in the UK, applicants may appeal an initial negative decision and, if unsuccessful, ask the Norwegian courts to review the Government’s finding.

225.Asylum seekers able to present a clear form of ID are allowed to work while their application is being considered. The Minister, Jøran Kallmyr, said this encouraged people to be open with the Norwegian government, and suggested that asylum claimants genuinely in need of protection were happier to identify themselves.

Integration support

226.Norway operates an ‘introduction programme’, which provides a consistent package of integration support to all refugees, including people brought to Norway through the resettlement scheme and those who arrive spontaneously as asylum seekers. This three-year introduction programme provides adult refugees with Norwegian language lessons, work education and training, and a salary of approximately £1,500 per month. Refugees under the age of 18 are included in the regular educational system, including pre-school care.

227.To spread refugees throughout the country, Norway operates a voluntary system of asking municipalities to accept a proportion of overall numbers. There is on average a six-month wait between a person receiving a positive protection decision and moving to their designated municipality. During this time, refugees live in asylum reception centres, start language lessons, and receive support to prepare for their move.

228.Municipalities are responsible for administering a person’s introduction programme. Municipalities receive a fixed sum of money over five years for each refugee they accept, so there is an incentive for them to support refugees into work and financial independence as quickly as possible.

229.There is no way to guarantee that refugees will stay in their designated municipality, and some choose to move from rural areas to Oslo or other cities. However, as the introduction programme is tied to the municipality where they were placed, a refugee might lose financial support if they moved. UDI drew attention to efforts to distribute refugees across the country, and noted that refugees who had settled and integrated well into a community were less likely to seek better opportunities elsewhere.

Criticisms

230.Unsurprisingly, the Minister of Justice and UDI were very positive about the Norwegian asylum system and its operational efficiency, and those we met in Oslo were proud of Norway’s strong humanitarian record and its investment in the successful integration of refugees. Nonetheless, we heard some criticisms of Norwegian asylum policy.

231.The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) highlighted two instances where UNHCR considered that Norway had violated the Refugee Convention:

232.The NRC said that Norway needed to strike a better balance between seeking to control immigration and honouring its international protection obligations. The noted that municipalities were seeking, or already had, more places for refugees than the number being admitted to Norway.

233.The Norwegian Organisation for Asylum Seekers (NOAS) thought that Norway had one of the strictest asylum systems in Western Europe. They criticised Norway’s decision to prohibit people from making asylum claims at the Norwegian border with Russia as a further breach of the Refugee Convention.

234.NOAS were also concerned about heavy-handed police treatment of people who had been refused asylum and were awaiting return. NOAS acknowledged that there had been improvements, but believed there was still political pressure on the police to handle returns cases in a way that discouraged people from making asylum applications in Norway. NOAS also criticised Norway’s failure to establish an independent body for monitoring forced returns, in violation of the EU Returns Directive, which was transposed into Norwegian law in December 2010.

The Government’s view

235.With regard to delays in processing family reunion cases for refugee children, the Minister, Brandon Lewis MP, told us that it was “only right” that sufficient time was dedicated to make the necessary checks to conduct best interest assessments, trace family members, and verify the claimed relationship. Over time the number of children seeking to reunite with family members under the Dublin System had grown, which partly explained increased delays in case processing times. The evolution and improvement of processes to consider a take charge request involving an unaccompanied child were also factors.

236.On the suggestion that the Home Office applied excessively high standards of proof, the Minister said that the guidance on refugee family reunion rules had recently been revised. The revised guidance aimed to “streamline the process” and clarify expectations of applicants and sponsors—including on evidential requirements—and recognised the challenges applicants face in obtaining documents to support their application.

237.The Minister did not comment on the assertion that there was a two-tier system of support for refugees in the UK, but drew our attention to a new action plan published in February 2019 which set out the Government’s aim to improve integration support for all refugees. He confirmed that the VPRS and VCRS were being evaluated and said the findings would help to shape the new refugee resettlement programme, as well as integration support for all refugees in the UK.

238.On the external dimension of UK asylum policy, the Government would prioritise transitioning EU Readmissions Agreements to maintain and, where possible, enhance the UK’s capability to return individuals. In response to concerns about human rights considerations in relation to future returns agreements with third countries, the Minister confirmed: “The Home Office closely monitors developments in all countries of return and takes decisions on a case-by-case basis in the light of international obligations and the latest available country policy and information notes.”208

Conclusions

239.The UK has a proud history of offering sanctuary to those in need and is a global leader in refugee resettlement. Nonetheless, the UK’s reputation has been damaged by restrictive family union policies and the, at times, inept administration of the UK asylum system. The Government’s wider review of future UK immigration policy provides an opportunity to develop a more effective and humane asylum policy.

240.We support the Families Together coalition’s campaign to expand UK refugee family reunion rules. These demands reflect the conclusions of our 2016 report on unaccompanied migrant children in the UK, which found no evidence to support the Government’s belief that allowing children to sponsor their parents would encourage families to send children to Europe alone in order to act as an ‘anchor’ for other family members.

241.Expanding the definition of family members eligible for reunion to include adult children would help to address the situation that some refugees in the UK find themselves in, where bringing their spouse and or children to join them would mean abandoning their 18- or 19-year-old in a dangerous country of origin, with no other family to protect them.

242.We are disappointed that the Government has failed to implement the recommendation of our 2016 report to establish a guardianship service in England and Wales for all unaccompanied migrant children, to oversee their participation in the asylum process and identify their best interests. We now repeat that recommendation.

243.The Home Office should redouble its efforts to improve the speed and efficiency of its handling of asylum cases. This is likely to require the investment of additional financial and human resources in UK Visas and Immigration, and further training for staff involved in considering asylum applications.

244.The administration of the Dubs scheme is a worrying example of inefficiency in the UK asylum system. The Government was slow to get the scheme off the ground and can only confirm that 220 children have been transferred through it since 2016. Vague assertions that continuous progress is being made towards the commitment to resettle 480 children are unacceptable. The Government must provide regular updates on the number of unaccompanied children brought to the UK through the Dubs scheme, and how it is working with local authorities to provide resettlement places.

245.We note concerns about deficiencies in the UK asylum system in relation to the care and protection of people seeking asylum on sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) grounds. Future UK asylum policy should ensure adequate consideration of the particular needs and vulnerabilities of SOGI applicants.

246.We welcome the establishment of a single, global refugee resettlement programme to consolidate the VPRS, VCRS, and Gateway schemes when they come to an end in 2020. This should help to improve consistency in people’s experiences of refugee resettlement, but will not fully address the two-tier system of support for refugees that currently exists in the UK. We urge the Government to follow the example of Norway in offering the same package of financial and other integration support to all recognised refugees in the UK, regardless of whether they arrived through a resettlement programme or by their own efforts as an asylum seeker.

247.We also commend the Norwegian approach of disbursing a fixed sum of money to municipalities to incentivise them to support refugees to integrate successfully, and become financially independent as quickly as possible. A more generous integration support package—along the lines of Norway’s refugee introduction programme—would represent a significant upfront cost, but could reduce the amount of time refugees in the UK are dependent on welfare support, generating savings in the longer term.

248.The new UK resettlement programme should build on best practice from the successful VPRS and VCRS schemes, and be underpinned by a long-term funding commitment to enable forward planning. It will be essential for the Government to work closely with local authorities, charities and community groups in the design and delivery of this programme. The Government should also strive to ensure a better distribution of refugees across the UK by encouraging and supporting the participation of local authorities new to refugee resettlement in the programme, and by facilitating the exchange of information and lessons learned between local authorities.

249.We also urge the Government to reconsider its modest aim to resettle 5,000 refugees in the first year of the new scheme. With the experience and infrastructure from delivering the VPRS already in place—and in the context of record numbers of forcibly displaced people worldwide—the Government should be more ambitious in its resettlement target.

250.On the external dimension of UK asylum policy, human rights considerations must be at the heart of any future agreements with third countries on readmission or cooperation to tackle the root causes of migration. We recommend that all such agreements should be subject to formal human rights assessments, which satisfy widely held international standards.

251.Finally, we urge Ministers across Government to moderate the language they use when discussing asylum issues. The UK has much to be proud of in its contribution to refugee protection at the national and international levels, and should be a vocal advocate for protecting refugees from persecution. The Government should have the confidence publicly to challenge those who seek to present asylum seekers as a threat and something to be feared.


158 HM Government, The UK’s future skills-based immigration system, Cm 9722, 17 December 2018: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/766465/The-UKs-future-skills-based-immigration-system-print-ready.pdf [accessed 21 August 2019]

159 Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, An inspection of family reunion applications: January to May 2016 (September 2016) p 2: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/561815/ICIBI-inspection-of-family-reunion-applications-January-to-May-2016.pdf [accessed 21 August 2019]

160 Q 40 (David Bolt)

161 Written evidence from the Refugee Council (AIP0003)

162 Q 9 (Judith Dennis)

163 Q 9 (Jon Featonby)

164 Oral evidence taken on 6 February 2019 (Session 2017–19), Q 8 (Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor)

165 Written evidence from Safe Passage (AIP0005)

166 Q 13 (Eleanor Harrison)

167 Written evidence from the European Children’s Rights Unit and Liverpool Law Clinic (AIP0007)

168 Written evidence from Safe Passage (AIP0005 and AIP0011)

169 Written evidence from the European Children’s Rights Unit and Liverpool Law Clinic (AIP0007)

170 Q 4 (Jon Featonby)

171 Q 11 (Lord Dubs, Eleanor Harrison)

172 Q 5 (Jon Featonby)

173 Q 11 (Eleanor Harrison)

174 Q 42 (David Bolt)

175 Q 5 (Jon Featonby)

176 Q 41 (David Bolt)

177 Written evidence from the European Children’s Rights Unit and Liverpool Law Clinic (AIP0007)

178 Written evidence from the Refugee Council (AIP0003)

179 Q 9 (Jon Featonby)

180 Written evidence from Refugee Rights Europe (AIP0009)

181 Q 4 (Judith Dennis)

182 See Appendix 4.

183 Q 4 (Jon Featonby), Q 29 (Alice Lucas) and written evidence from Refugee Rights Europe (AIP0009)

184 Written evidence from the Refugee Council (AIP0003), Safe Passage (AIP0005), British Red Cross (AIP0008) and SOS Children’s Villages UK (AIP0012)

185 Oral evidence taken on 6 February 2019 (Session 2017–19), Q 8 (Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor) and Home Office, The UK’s future skills-based immigration system, Cm 9722, 19 December 2018, p 79: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/the-uks-future-skills-based-immigration-system [accessed 9 August 2019]

186 European Union Committee, Children in crisis: unaccompanied migrant children in the EU (2nd Report, Session 2016–17, HL Paper 34), para 291

187 Written evidence from the Refugee Council (AIP0003)

188 Q 12 (Lord Dubs)

189 Q 12 (Eleanor Harrison) and written evidence from Safe Passage (AIP0005)

190 Written evidence from the European Children’s Rights Unit and Liverpool Law Clinic (AIP0007)

191 Material reception conditions are reception conditions provided to asylum applicants to ensure an adequate standard of living, which guarantees their subsistence and protects their physical and mental health, including for example. housing, food and clothing (provided in kind, or as financial allowances or vouchers) and expenses allowances.

192 Written evidence from the SOGICA Project (AIP0010)

Internal relocation (or flight) alternative is the idea that, rather than seeking asylum in another country, a person should relocate to a specific area of their country of origin where there is no risk of a well-founded fear of persecution and where they could reasonably be expected to establish themselves and live a normal life.

193 Written evidence from Safe Passage (AIP0005)

194 Q 28 (Dr Hanne Beirens)

195 Q 4 (Judith Dennis)

196 Q 5 (Judith Dennis, Jon Featonby)

197 Q 42 (David Bolt)

198 Written evidence from the Refugee Council (AIP0003) and the British Red Cross (AIP0008)

199 Q 17 (Lord Dubs, Eleanor Harrison)

200 Home Office, ‘New global resettlement scheme for the most vulnerable refugees announced’ (17 June 2019): https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-global-resettlement-scheme-for-the-most-vulnerable-refugees-announced [accessed 21 August 2019]

201 Q 38 (Colin Yeo, Professor Elspeth Guild)

202 Written evidence from Professor Bernard Ryan & Alan Desmond (AIP0006)

203 Written evidence from the European Children’s Rights Unit and Liverpool Law Clinic (AIP0007)

204 Written evidence from Refugee Rights Europe (AIP0009)

205 Written evidence from Refugee Rights Europe (AIP0009) and Q 21 (Dr Hanne Beirens)

206 Q 36 (Colin Yeo)

207 Q 21 (Dr Hanne Beirens)

208 Letter dated 10 September 2019 from Rt Hon Brandon Lewis MP to Lord Jay of Ewelme (see Appendix 7)




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