Call for UK to rethink 'useless' asylum policy and establish national refugee strategy

Report claims multilateralism and diplomacy, not tough words and Rwanda flights, are key to reducing Channel crossings

Migrants come ashore in Dungeness, Kent, on England's south coast, after their vessel was intercepted by a lifeboat. PA
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The UK government has been urged to develop a national refugee strategy that focuses on diplomatic solutions to illegal crossings of the English Channel, in a report by prominent figures on migrant issues.

The study by the Legatum Institute think tank says record numbers of Channel crossing are “one of the most challenging strategic and operational issues” facing the British government within its asylum policy.

It calls for a multilateral approach between the UK and countries on mainland Europe to tackle these.

The report authors say both human rights and security must be key elements of a strategy.

This can be viewed as criticism of the UK government's controversial plan to deport asylum seekers to Rwanda.

The report proposes establishing “joint Anglo-French processing centres” to assess migrant claims in France, and then for Britain and partners in Europe to develop a model in which responsibility is shared.

“Without international co-operation, we will struggle to stop crossings,” said Conservative Party peer Baroness Stroud, co-author of the report and chief executive of the Legatum Institute.

“Even policies like the Rwanda flight are proving to be useless deterrents as the numbers taking dangerous journeys has rocketed.

“Instead, we must work with the countries on the other side of the Channel to manage this crisis together.

“There must be three pillars to our approach. First, we must strengthen collaboration to stop smuggling.

“Second, we must secure agreement from our European partners for the establishment of joint processing centres in Europe so that asylum claims are processed before people arrive here.

“Finally, we should create safe routes from Europe itself at these centres so that we take our fair share.

“If all claims were processed at joint processing centres before people arrived in Calais, we would significantly undermine the people smugglers' business. Diplomacy is the key to a comprehensive national refugee strategy.”

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The report also proposes reducing asylum backlogs, instituting a right to work after six months, implementing a national refugee integration strategy and improving global engagement.

Reducing asylum backlogs

It identifies alleviating costly asylum backlogs as key to the strategy's success and suggests a dedicated backlog clearance team is established to process the nearly 120,000 people who are waiting an initial decision on their asylum claims.

Instituting right to work after six months

Seeing as nearly three-quarters of those waiting for an initial decision on their claim have been waiting more than six months, the report argues that people seeking asylum should be given greater access to the right to work in order to support themselves and contribute to the economy.

It proposes that the right to work should begin six months after arrival, and no longer be restricted by occupation.

National refugee integration strategy

The report suggests central government should create standards for effective refugee integration strategies, with direct earmarked funding for local authorities, linked to clearly defined key performance indicators as part of a national refugee integration strategy.

Improved global engagement

The report says the UK should seek a leadership role in global refugee policy in the long term, including a renewed commitment to the UN Convention on Refugees by engaging more actively in the Global Compact on Refugees.

It suggests that the UK could also work with a coalition of like-minded states to negotiate a “solidarity pact” to clarify the allocation of responsibilities between states in areas ambiguously or inadequately addressed by the international refugee system.

Other contributors to the report are Enver Solomon the chief executive of the Refugee Council, Alexander Betts, director of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, and Will Somerville of nonprofit sponsorship organisation Unbound Philanthropy.

Updated: October 07, 2022, 7:56 PM