Thousands of refugees would be rejected under UK's tougher new rules

Refugee organisations launch campaign for 'a more humane asylum system'

13 March 2021, Lebanon, Aarsal: Rahma, a 13-year-old Syrian refugee girl sits with her six-year-old brother Mohamad outside their tent at the Barra refugee camp in the Lebanese town of Aarsal, located north-east of capital Beirut. UNICEF said that after 10 years since the start of the Syrian conflict, war has left the lives and futures of a generation of children hanging by a thread. The Syrian war remains one of the world's most complex humanitarian crises as it continues to ravage many areas in Syria. Photo: Marwan Naamani/dpa (Photo by Marwan Naamani/picture alliance via Getty Images)

Thousands of women and child refugees would be refused entry to Britain under the government's new asylum proposals, according to a coalition of over 200 refugee-related organisations.

Together with Refugees published figures showing that two out of every three women and children currently accepted by the UK as refugees would be turned away in future if the government’s New Plan for Immigration is enacted.

The findings were based on an analysis of Home Office data on the number of people granted refugee status over the past five years and the government’s claim that 60 per cent of those applications were from people thought to have entered the UK illegally. Just under 60,000 people were granted refugee or humanitarian protection status in the UK between 2015 and 2020, 50 per cent of them women and children.

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Abandoning people fleeing war and persecution, including women and children, is not who we are in the UK. Sabir Zazai

Founded by six major asylum-related institutions, including the Refugee Council and British Red Cross, the coalition also launched a campaign calling for “a more effective, fair and humane approach to the UK’s asylum system.”

“Abandoning people fleeing war and persecution, including women and children, is not who we are in the UK. These are mothers escaping war-torn Syria, women fleeing sexual violence in Congo or children escaping life-long conscription into the military in Eritrea. These are people in fear of their lives. These are people like me. These are also people like you, people who want to live in safety and dignity,” said Sabir Zazai, chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, who is a refugee himself.

New asylum proposals put forward by Home Secretary Priti Patel would mean that anyone claiming asylum after arriving in the UK through an irregular route would face removal to a third country. Ms Patel told Parliament in March that “the system is becoming overwhelmed” as she unveiled the controversial plans, which would make it harder for asylum seekers to get permanent status in Britain.

“Our system is collapsing under the pressure of parallel illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminal smugglers,” she said.

“The existence of parallel routes is deeply unfair, advancing those with the means to pay smugglers over those in desperate need.”

The planned changes have been described as inhumane by human rights organisations and the UK has so far been unable to persuade any EU country to sign on.

Last year the UK received 37,550 asylum applications but Germany, France and Spain received approximately three times the number of applications each. Almost nine out of 10 of the world's refugees are hosted by developing countries and 73 per cent live in countries neighbouring their own.

Earlier this year Denmark became the first European nation to refuse to renew residency permits for refugees from Syria, claiming some parts of the war-torn country were now safe enough to return to.

A poll commissioned by Refugee Council and British Future showed that nearly two-thirds of Britons thought the UK should protect refugees fleeing war and persecution.

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