EU countries snub UK proposals to return asylum seekers

UN says Priti Patel's plans risk Britain’s ‘global credibility’

Britain's Home Secretary Priti Patel visits the North Yorkshire Police headquarters in Northallerton, northeast England on July 30, 2020. / AFP / POOL / Charlotte Graham
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Britain’s tough post-Brexit immigration proposals are in doubt, as no European country has supported plans to deport asylum seekers to “safe countries” such as France.

Home Secretary Priti Patel has proposed a major immigration overhaul to forcibly return to Europe migrants who enter the UK illegally, but has been unable to persuade any EU country to sign on.

Despite significant criticism, Ms Patel’s plans are to feature in the Queen’s Speech on Tuesday as part of the government’s legislative agenda for the next year.

But the proposals now look vulnerable without any European agreements, alongside the UN warning that they could undermine worldwide agreements to offer refugees protection.

The UN High Commissioner for Refugees has criticised the proposals, saying they could damage Britain’s “global credibility”.

The UNHCR is also set to publish a legal opinion on the plans saying they could infringe international legislation and are unworkable.

"If a country like the UK seeks to back away from its obligations under the convention, what message does it send to others hosting large numbers?" Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, the UNHCR's UK representative, told The Observer newspaper.

“There’s no question that the UK has won a reputation as a country of asylum, and with it considerable global credibility – which, incidentally, it has used to advocate for open asylum abroad.”

The British government has also been criticised by 192 refugee, human rights, legal and faith groups that have signed a public statement denouncing the proposals as a “sham”.

The Law Society describes the changes as “undermining access to justice and making a mockery of British fair play”.

Hundreds of asylum seekers in Britain have been told that they could be removed to other countries in Europe despite Brexit removing Britain’s power to make such transfers.

After Brexit was completed in January, the UK left the Dublin regulation, a legal process that allows EU governments to transfer refugees back to other member states where they were earlier registered.

No new legislation or bilateral agreements have replaced this.

Meanwhile, Denmark has become the first European nation to refuse to renew residency permits for refugees, claiming some areas of Syria are safe for families to return to.

Syrians in Denmark say they face severe danger if forced to return home to Damascus and other areas that have been levelled by the decade-long civil war.