A new humanitarian visa – allowing a capped number of 40,000 people per year to come safely to the UK to claim asylum in an orderly fashion – is a ‘real world’ proposal to reduce Channel crossings, in contrast to the ‘impossible promises’ currently being put forward, according to a new report.
The new visa route could also help ‘break the deadlock’ to secure a comprehensive deal with France and Belgium that moves beyond the beaches to include routes and returns, the report says. It forms part of a new package of asylum policy proposals to reform the UK asylum system and reduce dangerous Channel crossings.
The new British Future report comes as MPs return to Parliament and the Government is expected to move forward with legislative plans on asylum in response to Channel crossings.
‘Control and compassion: a new plan for an effective and fair UK asylum system’ sets out ten proposals for reforming asylum protection in the UK. As well as measures to undermine the business model of people smugglers and reduce boat crossings, it also includes proposals to make asylum case processing and safe returns faster and fairer, saving money on expensive hotel accommodation. A further package of measures would help people integrate and find work once they have been granted refugee status in the UK.
Sunder Katwala, Director of British Future and co-author of the report, said:
“Dangerous journeys across the Channel are nobody’s idea of a safe or effective asylum system. But Rishi Sunak and Suella Bravernan threatening to detain and deport everyone who crosses the Channel is just one more impossible promise they won’t keep.
“Politicians keep chasing headlines and seeking scapegoats but have failed to come up with a proper plan for an orderly, workable and humane system. What we need are real-world policies that can actually happen and will make a difference.
“A new humanitarian visa would provide a safe route for people to claim asylum in the UK, undermining the business model of people smugglers. It offers the best opportunity to break the deadlock with France and end the chaos in the Channel. A new comprehensive deal would agree who can come here safely and who France would take back.
“Reforms to the system can also help us make faster, fairer asylum decisions, with more safe returns of those who are not entitled to protection – massively reducing the cost of hotels and inhumane overcrowding at reception centres.”
The new proposals outlined in the report include:
- A new humanitarian visa for those with a strong prima facie asylum claim or links to the UK, issued at British consulates at locations away from the French and Belgian coasts. It would allow a capped number of 40,000 people per year to come safely to the UK to claim asylum in a fair and orderly fashion – undermining the business model of people smugglers.
- The humanitarian visa would be the catalyst for a new, more comprehensive deal with France and Belgium, which moves beyond the beaches to include routes and returns. As part of a deeper deal to tackle people smuggling at source, it would ask France to intercept small boats on beaches and in their territorial waters and prevent them travelling to the UK.
- New arrangements with Albania and other countries to enable safe return of people with failed asylum claims.
- Upfront investment to clear the backlog of 100,000 ongoing asylum cases in 6 months, saving huge amounts of money on hotel accommodation.
- Reform of asylum decision-making so it is faster and fairer.
- A focus on more safe returns of people whose claim fails, including more voluntary returns, which have fallen by 80% in the last 10 years.
- A new programme to help integrate people whose claim is successful, through regional ‘welcoming hubs’ and by letting more people work and pay taxes.
Parliamentarians and civil society voices have also welcomed the proposals.
Tim Farron MP said:
“We cannot carry on with an asylum system that forces people to risk their lives seeking safety. There needs to be a safe way for people to get to the UK, from countries like Afghanistan or Iran where they face appalling abuse, so they can make a claim for our protection. This report sets out what a safe route could look like and I hope this is given serious consideration by MPs and the Government.”
Stephen Timms MP said:
“Whatever the outcome in the courts, the Rwanda scheme is wrong in principle and unworkable in practice. To stop dangerous Channel crossings, we will need a safe route to allow people who need protection to come to Britain safely. So it is very welcome to see this fresh thinking about how a well-managed and humane alternative could work”.
Ryan Shorthouse, Chief Executive of the Conservative think tank Bright Blue, said:
“The number of asylum applicants is at record highs, despite the new threat of deportation to Rwanda. This seems to indicate that this expensive and controversial policy is not acting as a deterrent. The Government is right to want to reduce the number of dangerous journeys across the Channel. But, if the Rwanda policy is failing, it urgently needs to look at alternatives, such as allowing asylum cases to be processed at British Embassies and high commissions in a select number of friendly third countries.”
Enver Solomon, Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said:
“Unlike the Government’s plans which are unworkable and won’t do anything to address the problems with the asylum system, this report highlights proposals that show another way is possible.
“Making the asylum system ever more hostile and treating refugees as criminals isn’t good news for taxpayers, communities or refugees themselves. As British Future set out, the Government should be focusing on creating more safe routes for people to reach the UK, such as through a refugee visa, and tackling the backlog in asylum decisions that has been allowed to build up over several years.”
(Image by Remi Muller on Unsplash)