UK immigration plans risk violating international obligations, UN body warns


The UN refugee agency has sharply criticized UK plans to limit asylum rights, saying they risk violating UK international legal commitments and undermining global efforts to help refugees. refugees.

UNHCR released the criticism in an unusually blunt statement and detailed 35-page notice ahead of the Queen’s speech on Tuesday in which the government will outline its legislative agenda for the year. This includes a controversial new immigration plan to be enshrined in law, which would discriminate against asylum seekers arriving in the UK via clandestine routes.

Critics of the international body are the latest to raise concerns about the proposals’ compliance with UK obligations under the 1951 Refugee Convention. The convention is normally interpreted as prohibiting countries from discriminating against people who have violated immigration laws to reach their territory before making an asylum claim.

“These plans threaten to create a discriminatory two-tier asylum system, undermining the 1951 Refugee Convention and long-standing global cooperation on refugee issues,” said Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, UNHCR representative at UK. But it was not too late to rethink, she added: “We are ready to work with the UK on alternative reforms,” Pagliuchi-Lor said.

The UK was part of the EU’s Dublin Conventions until December, under which asylum seekers can be returned to other safe countries through which they have traveled. The 1951 convention places no obligation on asylum seekers to seek asylum in the first safe country they reach.

Home Secretary Priti Patel first presented her reforms on March 24 as part of efforts to deal with the surge in illegal migration across the Channel by those seeking asylum in the Kingdom -United. The Home Office has considered a series of controversial options to curb arrivals via this route, including wave machines in the English Channel to bring boats back to French waters. In 2020, 8,420 asylum applications were lodged by people who have made illegal crossings of the Channel.

Patel’s proposals would prevent people seeking asylum after passing through other safe countries, such as France, from immediately resorting to the British asylum system. The Home Office has already started writing to asylum seekers who have passed through other safe countries to inform them that their applications are being delayed while the UK assesses whether they can be returned to another country .

The government has insisted that its plans are “fully in line” with the UK’s international and legal obligations and reiterated its claim that applicants should seek asylum in the first safe country they reach.

“We are reforming the asylum system to be fair but firm, welcoming those arriving in the UK through safe and legal channels while cracking down on the criminal gangs who facilitate these dangerous and illegal journeys,” the government said .

Pagliuchi-Lor said the proposals would be “expensive and difficult to implement”.

“We cannot see them deter the movements of desperate people and the human consequences will be real and harmful,” she said.

The UK has announced that it will launch a new global resettlement program to allow persecuted groups to legally travel to the UK. But no such route is currently operational.

The UNHCR statement follows another conviction last week, including from the Bar, representing lawyers, who said the plans posed a “serious threat to the rule of law”. The Bar Council, representing the lawyers, also said the proposed limits on appeals risked creating “grave injustice”.

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