Latest government statistics up to December 2020 reveal how far from the truth government rhetoric on people seeking asylum in the UK has strayed. Despite the shrill pitch of Nigel Farage claiming an ‘out of control invasion’, asylum grants or protection fell by more than half.
Asylum Grants Fall
Further, this number is a combination of people granted asylum and refugees resettled. Grants of asylum on their own were down 40% on 2019. Of decisions made on asylum claims, just under half of all applications were accepted. Many of those refused go on to appeal; as many as two thirds of all people seeking asylum receive a positive decision if those appeals are taken into account.
Though there were delays caused by the pandemic, the asylum system was already far from being fit for purpose. The ‘crisis’ of high numbers of people reaching the UK’s shores has been manufactured to justify cruel cost-cutting policies by the Home Office. By the end of last year, there are over 64,000 people currently in limbo, unable to work and waiting for a decision on their claim, with almost two thirds waiting more than six months.
No Safe Routes to Asylum
Branding people’s desperate journeys ‘illegal’ made no difference to people’s need to move as conditions in other EU nations become untenable. Outsourcing and extending the UK’s border to Calais and Northern France, cracking down on surveillance and policing only pushed more people into small boats in the Channel into this year. There are no other options for people, with borders closed and a lack of safe routes to take.
Housing people seeking asylum in Napier and Penally barracks since September has only further entrenched the narrative of illegality. Despite adamant assurances that the sites were clean and safe, nearly 200 people have since tested positive for Covid-19 at Napier.
Contradictions and cruelty abound. Home Secretary Priti Patel has since blamed people housed there for ‘not following the rules’, despite being forced to sleep 28 to a room and use cramped prison-like facilities with no real way of social distancing.
At a Commons Home Affairs Select Committee hearing yesterday, Matthew Rycroft the Home Office’s permanent secretary stated: ‘We were following the guidance at every stage.’ Documents uncovered in the press however show Public Health England submitted advice in September two weeks before the barracks were opened as asylum accommodation that they ‘were not suitable’. This advice was summarily rejected.
The Home Secretary has also said she would ‘take back control’ of the UK’s borders, ensuring thousands would be sent back to the EU. However, despite a rise of requests for transfers to deport people to EU nations, only 105 actual transfers took place.
Removals at Record Low
This follows the trend of the past decade. Immigration Enforcement states its vision as ‘to reduce the size of the illegal population and the harm it causes’. Despite its aims under hostile environment policies, since 2015 both voluntary and ‘enforced’ returns, or deportations, have fallen dramatically. Enforced removals were the lowest on record since 2004.
The Home Office also has no reliable metric for measuring how many undocumented people, or those without proper leave to remain in the UK, are still in the country. They last provided the estimate of around 430,000 in 2005.
Equally, the pandemic was always going to have an effect on asylum processes and decision making. Rather than the calling card of a ‘broken system’, it illustrates one in blind pursuit of ideology. The reality however behind the numbers are the lives of those affected, each one worthy of dignity.
[Header Image: gov.uk]