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Outcry as UK proposes giving asylum seekers who arrived ‘illegally’ fewer rights

July 7, 2021 at 11:24 am

Migrants packed tightly onto a small inflatable boat attempt to cross the English Channel near the Dover Strait on 7 September 2020 off the coast of Dover, England [Luke Dray/Getty Images]

There has been a huge backlash against the UK’s proposed anti-immigration bill which grants asylum seekers different rights based on whether they arrived in the country legally or illegally, making it harder for the latter to have their applications accepted.

The Nationality and Borders Bill, published yesterday, has been described by the Home Secretary Priti Patel as “the biggest overhaul of the UK’s asylum system in decades.”

It proposes that even if “illegal” asylum seekers’ claims are accepted, they will only be given temporary refugee status, will always be at risk of removal and their access to benefits and family reunion could be curtailed.

However, as Amnesty International has pointed out in the past, there are no lawful routes available – to travel legally a visa is required and visas are not available for people seeking asylum.

According to Amnesty, between 2014 and 2020 the UK has only “legally” resettled roughly 18,252 Syrian refugees from refugee camps, compared to some four million in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

The bill would give the government the power to block visas and impose additional financial requirements on people coming from countries it believes are not cooperating in taking back asylum seekers whose claims have been rejected or people convicted of a crime.

Iraq, Iran, Eritrea and Sudan are believed to be the countries that are reluctant to work with the UK, reports the Guardian.

READ: Syrian mother granted asylum in Denmark as it prepares to deport refugees

The government also proposed transferring asylum seekers out of the country whist their applications are processed and speeding up the appeals and judicial process to remove those whose claims have been rejected.

They are also considering using bone scanners, dental records and x-rays to determine an asylum seeker’s age to stop what they say are adults who are pretending to be children.

The border force would be allowed to use “reasonable force” against asylum seekers in a bid to stop them crossing the waters between England and France.

Patel said that the legislation, “delivers on what the British people have voted for time and time again – for the UK to take full control of its borders.”

However, the bill has been widely condemned by rights advocates including Sonya Sceats, CEO of the charity Freedom from Torture, who described it as “dripping with cruelty.”

Campaigners have long called on the government to increase safe and legal routes to stop people making treacherous journeys in rubber boats, yet this was not outlined in the bill.