Recent weeks have seen a number of reports regarding the Home Secretary’s plans to send asylum seekers as far away as Africa for processing.
However, these proposals are now the focus of a potential legal challenge, with human rights charity Freedom from Torture asserting that they violate international law.
Freedom from Torture has demanded a ‘legal report’ on the Home Secretary’s planned reforms of the UK asylum system. The comments were made in a 70-page document first seen by the Financial Times, in which the proposals come under intense criticism.
In the words of one barrister:
“The new laws are inconsistent with the UK’s obligations under Article 31 of the Refugee Convention.”
In the vast majority of cases, asylum claims are made by individuals fleeing persecution upon arrival in the UK.
Freedom from Torture pointed out that despite the UN Refugee Convention stating that “refugees should not be penalised for their illegal entry of stay,” the government’s ‘New Plan on Immigration’ will criminalise people who attempt or manage to reach the UK irregularly.”
According to various reports, Priti Patel and Prime Minister Boris Johnson have ‘warmed to’ the idea of sending asylum seekers to offshore processing centres. Added to this, UK government officials have reportedly met with Danish government officials to discuss ‘sharing’ an offshore processing centre in Rwanda.
Steve Crawshaw, policy and advocacy director for Freedom of Torture, said:
“It beggars belief that the government seems determined to plough ahead regardless.”
Impractical and cruel
Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture Sonya Sceats added:
“The offshore UK immigration centres are a ludicrously impractical and cruel idea.”
While the Home Office has responded by rejecting reports of a shared processing centre with Denmark, it has failed to completely rule out the notion of offshore asylum processing.
One official told the Financial Times:
“It’s no secret that the government would like to pursue the option of an offshore centre.”
The Home Office has long held the view that the UK asylum system is broken. One spokesperson from the government department said:
“Our asylum system is broken and we cannot sit idly by while people die attempting to cross the Channel. Our New Plan for UK Immigration will welcome people through safe and legal routes, whilst preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.”
These comments follow a rise in the numbers of migrants attempting the hugely perilous channel crossing, something for which the Prime Minister has reportedly condemned the Home Office for during a private meeting.
The Home Office has reiterated that offshore asylum processing will protect the public from harm while honouring the UK’s international obligations. These comments have been made in spite of the widespread condemnation.
The plans have come as a surprise- less than 12 months ago, the government dismissed the idea as ‘blue-sky’ thinking.
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Home Office proposals for offshore asylum processing have been the subject of intense criticism, with Human Rights charity Freedom for Torture calling for a ‘legal opinion’. [Image: Biometric Update]
Sonya Sceats. Chief Executive of Freedom from Torture, has described the offshore processing centres as a ‘ludicrously impractical and cruel idea’. [Image: Freedom from Torture]
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