Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Asylum applications increase by a fifth for record trips across the canal

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New figures show that asylum applications in the UK have increased by a fifth in one year amid record small boat crossings.

There were more than 37,500 applications for 44,000 men, women and children in the year to September, mainly from Iran, Eritrea, Albania, Iraq and Syria, according to a report by the Interior Ministry.

“The surge in applications is likely related in part to the relaxation of global travel restrictions that were in place due to the Covid-19 pandemic and an increase in small boat arrivals in the UK – almost all of which are seeking asylum,” it added.

The numbers were released the morning after at least 27 people drowned after a dinghy sank off the coast of France, again prompting the government to change its “cruel and ineffective” approach to crossings.

Two thirds of the asylum seekers received asylum or other protective measures after their first application, in the previous year it was half, while others lifted initial refusals in the appeal process.

Official statistics appeared to contradict repeated claims by the Home Secretary that 70 percent of people arriving in small boats are “economic migrants”.

Priti Patel was repeatedly urged to withdraw the claim during a debate in the House of Commons on Monday, but declined to do so.

The numbers also challenged claims by the Home Secretary following the Liverpool bombing that a “carousel” of asylum applications was being exploited.

The number of appeals submitted in the year up to September was 30 percent below the previous year and the number has been falling since 2015, according to the report by the Interior Ministry.

Almost half of the appeals were successful, and the percentage of first rulings overturned has been rising for a decade.

The processing of asylum applications has slowed down dramatically and the figures showed that by the end of September, 67,547 cases of 83,733 people were waiting for an initial decision – 41 percent more than the previous year.

The total number of asylum cases marked as pending, which includes live appeals and rejected asylum seekers that the government wishes to remove, is more than 125,000.

The government changed its immigration rules in January to make people who have traveled through safe third countries “ineligible”, but has not signed return agreements with EU countries to replace a deal lost in Brexit.

Under UK law, anyone applying for asylum in the UK must be physically present in the country and there is no asylum visa.

As an alternative to irregular travel, ministers have repeatedly welcomed resettlement programs that arrange the transfer of refugees directly from conflict regions.

But the program promised in August for 20,000 Afghans has not yet started and other safe and legal avenues have been cut.

Thursday’s report showed that only 1,171 refugees were granted protection through resettlement programs in the year through September, half as many as the previous year.

The numbers came as the government pushed forward a controversial series of laws that would make reaching the UK by small boat criminal regardless of a person’s asylum status.

Tim Naor Hilton, General Manager of Refugee Action, said: “Instead of doing their fair share to help the growing number of people around the world who are forced to flee their homes, ministers want the drawbridge for refugees pulling up with the unbelievable tragic consequences we saw in the canal yesterday.

“The government has limited family reunification options, has a first-course resettlement program and has failed to find other routes to safety, leaving refugees with no choice but to get here by plane, truck or flimsy boat.

“And within the framework of its anti-refugee law, the government wants to criminalize the tiny fraction of the people who seek protection here.”

According to the Home Office report, the UK was 17 years old in the year through June.

A government spokesman said: “A significant proportion of asylum applications over the past year should have been made in a first safe country rather than risking their lives to make dangerous crossings that are facilitated by people smugglers. Yesterday’s tragedy is the most impressive reminder of the dangers associated with it. “

The UN Refugee Agency has declared that seeking asylum in the first safe country people reach is not required by international law and that such a principle places an “impracticable” burden on countries bordering on conflict.

The government spokesman said the Nationality and Borders Act “will ensure we are fair to those in need and break the business model of criminal trafficking networks.”

A government impact assessment said that evidence of the effectiveness of the proposals was “limited” and that they could encourage “riskier ways of entering the UK”.

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