The new plan is the most significant overhaul of the UK’s asylum system in decades
On 24th March, Home Secretary Priti Patel set out the government’s New Plan for Immigration in Parliament. Patel noted that fairness is a cornerstone of her new proposals, as the government seeks to overhaul a “broken” and “overwhelmed” system that is, “…collapsing under the pressure of parallel illegal routes to asylum”.
Described by Patel as, “The most significant overhaul of our asylum system in decades”, the plan sets out the UK’s long-term approach to immigration.
The plan outlines three key objectives:
- Increase the fairness and efficacy of the current asylum system.
- Deter illegal entry into the UK.
- Remove more easily from the UK those with no legal right to be here.
A tougher stance
At the heart of these objectives lies an overall message: the government is intending to take a tougher stance on illegal entry into the UK, and against the criminal networks that facilitate it. The maximum penalty for illegally entering the UK will be increased, while the maximum penalty for facilitating illegal entry will increase from 14 years to life imprisonment.
Those entering the UK illegally, and who could reasonably have claimed asylum in another ‘safe’ country – defined as a country where “there is no real risk of persecution or harm to individuals sent there” – will not be considered for the UK asylum system. Illegal entrants under this criterion will be ‘rapidly’ returned to the country from which they most recently embarked, or other safe third countries they have transited through, once return agreements are secured.
Streamlined claims and appeals
The plan also sets out a streamlined asylum claims and appeals process, as the Home Office seeks to clamp down on what it calls ‘unmeritorious claims’ that “frequently frustrate the removal of people with no right to be in the UK”, and which, in the government’s opinion, delays the process for those with genuine and important claims.
To tackle the problem, the plan includes legislation that will introduce a “one-stop process” requiring “further asylum or human rights grounds to be brought together upfront”, while there will also be “mechanisms for quickly disposing of unmeritorious claims”, including a new fast-track appeals process, allowing for cases to reach their conclusion more swiftly. The overall aim is to “ensure the asylum and appeals system is faster and fairer”.
In addition to its crackdown on illegal immigration, the government is keen to emphasise its long-term commitment to re-settling refugees and adhere to its “moral and legal obligations to help innocent civilians fleeing cruelty from around the world”. The plan makes it clear that the UK is “committed to upholding all of our international obligations, including the European Convention on Human Rights, the Refugee Convention and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea”.
In her speech to Parliament, Priti Patel said that “our society is enriched by legal immigration”, and noted that since 2015, the UK has resettled almost 25,000 refugees and a further 29,000 close relatives, while it has set out a pathway that will enable over five million Hong Kong residents to become UK citizens, in the wake of a controversial new security law imposed in the territory that has eroded its status as a semi-autonomous region of China.
As part of its continuing commitment to taking in asylum seekers, the government will adopt a “refined approach” that will seek to “prioritise resettling refugees, including children, from regions of conflict, rather than those who are already in safe European countries”.