Report calls for new approach to government asylum policy - Refugee Council
February 24, 2004

Report calls for new approach to government asylum policy

The Asylum Rights Campaign, a coalition of leading voluntary organisations including the Refugee Council, today publishes a comprehensive report providing a detailed study of government asylum policy over the last five years. It sets out positive recommendations for a fair and workable asylum system and exposes the critical flaws in the Government’s latest asylum bill.

Providing Protection in the 21st Century – Refugee Rights at the Heart of UK Asylum Policy makes a compelling case for a change of focus from the present concern with preventing abuse and deterring people from seeking protection in the UK, to making sure that the protection the UK can offer is made available to those who need it.

The report contains serious criticism of Home Office decision-making processes. It highlights the lack of an independent documentation centre for reliable and up-to-date country information and the poor level of expertise of decision-makers. Also of concern is that standards of fairness and justice are having to be upheld by the judiciary, and that over-emphasis on speed and the imposition of rigid targets are unlikely to result in asylum seekers getting a fair hearing.

Zrinka Bralo, co-Chair of ARC said:

“At the moment, the emphasis of asylum policy is so heavily on making life difficult for asylum seekers – visa restrictions, limitations on access to legal advice, refusing asylum seekers support if they don’t apply soon enough, inflexible rules designed to make applying for asylum as difficult as possible – we are in danger of ducking our international responsibilities.

“That standards of fairness and justice are currently having to be upheld by the judiciary is particularly worrying, given that the stated aim of the asylum bill currently going through parliament is to reduce the much-needed appeal procedure and remove judicial oversight of the asylum process. With the fairness of asylum decisions already under question, this could mean asylum seekers being wrongly returned to their country of origin to face torture or worse.”

Conditions for asylum seekers while they are awaiting a decision are also examined by the report, which recommends that asylum seekers be given the right to work during this time. It also calls for the immediate repeal of Section 55 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which denies support to people who do not apply for asylum at the earliest possible opportunity.

Zrinka Bralo continued:

“We urge the Government to seriously consider the recommendations made in this report. We all agree there are flaws in the asylum system but the way they are addressed will depend on the approach the Government chooses to take. The approach detailed in this report provides a framework for an asylum system that is fair to asylum seekers and treats them with humanity and dignity.”

Ends

Links & further information

ARC was established in 1993 in order to co-ordinate and facilitate campaigning efforts of a number of organisations in response to the Government’s legislative attempts to restrict the right to asylum and curtail rights and entitlements of people seeking asylum already in the UK.

Get the report and more information about ARC from the Asylum Rights Campaign website

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