Priti Patel’s proposed ‘New Plan for UK Immigration’ has been branded ‘vague, cruel, unworkable and potentially unlawful’ by immigration and human rights groups. The plan is currently under consultation and welcoming feedback, but activists have described the government consultation as ‘a sham’ and a ‘thinly-veiled public relations exercise’.
Pro-immigration and human rights campaigners have also claimed that the consultation is designed to ‘lead people to endorse the proposals’. Under the new plans, Patel is seeking to deny refugees who arrive in Britain illegally the automatic right to asylum in the UK. Instead, she wants them to be regularly reassessed for removal and have limited access to benefits.
Most people arriving on UK shores and granted refugee status tend to arrive via unauthorised routes. However, the government has said that the proposals are ‘firm but fair’.
192 groups, including Refugee Action and Freedom from Torture, have blasted Patel’s plans and the way ministers are gathering feedback. According to the groups, the consultation is ‘poorly designed, confusing and inaccessible’. It’s argued that it also uses questions that are ‘clearly designed to sway people toward endorsing the controversial plans’.
It has also been claimed that organisations have been given fewer than six full working weeks to respond during the consultation process, which normally runs for three months. Meanwhile, the questions ‘practically exclude’ those that the new plans will affect most, say activists.
A joint statement issued by Refugee Action and Freedom from Torture said: “Not one asks people about their personal experiences of fleeing persecution or seeking safety in the UK.”
Half-baked political manifesto
The statement added: “It is a half-baked political manifesto. It lays out vague, unworkable, cruel and potentially unlawful plans justified by misleading or simply incorrect evidence, wrapped up in racist and divisive language.”
In a move that has angered activists, and could further exclude refugees, the consultation has only been made available in English and Welsh.
Steven Shyaka, of refugee network RAS Voice, said: “I am not sure that without help many people with lived experience of asylum will be able to properly understand the technical implications behind the legal terms and policies.”
Meanwhile, Chai Patel of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI) accused Priti Patel of circumventing the civil service by outsourcing the consultation to a private firm. Chai Patel said: “It is a sham intended to mislead Parliament into believing there is merit to plans which will deny safety to people fleeing war and persecution.”
Chris Philp, the minister for UK immigration compliance and justice, justified Patel’s plans, saying: “With each day that passes, more vulnerable people are falling prey to organised crime gangs and risk dying in the back of lorries and at sea. We have a responsibility to put the new plan for immigration into action so that we can fix the broken asylum system.”
“We are helping people based on need, not the ability to pay people-smugglers. The consultation has been open for over a month and thousands of stakeholders, as well as members of the public, have shared their views. We will consider all responses carefully before bringing forward legislation,” Philp added.
Meanwhile, the Home Office has dismissed claims that the proposals are ‘half-baked’, stating that detailed plans had been outlined across 40 pages.
In April, the Home Office claims that it has resettled hundreds of refugees from Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey.
The government department said: “The consultation is being run by an independent and impartial organisation who will ensure that the full range and balance of opinions are reported back in full. We also intend to speak directly to refugees and asylum seekers as part of our consultation and engagement process.”
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