Our calls on the new Government - Refugee Council
blog  |  December 13, 2019

Our calls on the new Government

The votes are in – and now we know the shape of the new Government. Over the coming months, we will be reaching out to new Ministers and MPs as we continue our efforts in improving the lives of refugees and people seeking asylum in the UK.

In our General Election Supporter Pack we set out some of the priorities we believe Government should be addressing. Now we want to outline in more detail the issues that we plan to raise with those in power.

Read on to learn more about our campaigns and how you can stand up for the rights of refugees and people seeking asylum.

1. Providing safe and regular routes to protection in the UK

There are few safe routes for people who are fleeing war and persecution to find protection. Refugee resettlement is one of them. Considered a durable solution to the plight of refugees, resettlement takes vulnerable people who have fled their home countries but have yet to find safety, and brings them to countries like the UK where they are provided with support and an opportunity to rebuild their lives.

In recent years, the UK has shown global leadership in resettlement. The new government should be proud of this record and seek to protect it, while recognising where the current schemes can be improved.

The UK is able to take a higher number of resettled refugees and should do so. At the same time, it must design resettlement programmes so that new refugees are not subject to punitive and unfair welfare restrictions, at the very point they are resettled here.

During their forced flight from danger, refugees often get separated from family members. Upon eventually reaching safety in the UK, they encounter restrictive immigration rules that keep them apart from their loved ones.

Most incredibly, unaccompanied refugee children in the UK are not able to sponsor even their closest family members to join them in the UK, meaning they have to grow up alone, holding back their integration and condemning them to a life without their parents or siblings.

The rules on refugee family reunion should allow adult refugees to sponsor their parents, adult children, and siblings, while ensuring the process prioritises people’s safety and avoids unnecessary delays. They should also be changed so that child refugees can sponsor their parents and siblings to live with them here.

Join the campaign to bring #FamiliesTogether & sign our petition.

2. Creating a legally compliant and effective asylum system

The right to claim asylum is enshrined in international law. The new government should ensure that it facilitates this right, while also ensuring high standards of decision-making and legal representation during the asylum process.

The asylum process should be equally accessible to all, including those who may require special attention as a result of characteristics that make them vulnerable, such as age, gender, health needs, or experience of violence.

Improvements in this area have been welcome, and there has been some recent progress. We look forward to engaging with the new government to maintain this momentum and bring in further, much-needed improvements for a legally compliant and effective asylum system.

3. Humane support for people during the asylum process

Most refugees in the UK arrive with no savings, and need to prove that they are destitute in order to qualify for housing and subsistence support while a decision is being made on their asylum claim. The application process for this support can be difficult for many people seeking asylum, and in some circumstances leaves people penniless and with no support.

There should be guaranteed support for people seeking asylum as soon as they need it, and current issues – such as extensive gatekeeping that locks people out of their entitlements, and lengthy applications that can leave many confused and unable to receive the support they need – should be addressed urgently. The new government should also ensure that everyone remains entitled to basic support and healthcare, including those refused asylum, as long as they remain in touch with the Home Office.

The majority of people seeking asylum in the UK are banned from working. They are left months, and sometimes years, in limbo, waiting to hear the outcome of their claim for asylum while forced to live in poverty.

The new government should allow people seeking asylum to work – giving them the best chance to live in dignity, feel integrated in their new communities, and use their skills.

Join the campaign to #LiftTheBan & sign the petition.

4. Ensuring timely support for newly-recognised refugees

Newly-recognised refugees, after successfully making an asylum claim, are often plunged into crisis because government provides them with no substantive support, while quickly removing the housing and subsistence payments they received during the asylum process.

Once someone has been granted refugee status, they have only 28 days to transition from asylum accommodation and support onto mainstream welfare benefits and housing. This short ‘move-on’ period, coupled with unaffordable housing and difficulties accessing Universal Credit, means too many newly-recognised refugees end up homeless and destitute.

This contrasts with resettled refugees who are provided with tailored support, a secure tenancy, and a financial grant. It also differs from others who are not refugees and who are moving from legacy benefits to Universal Credit, as they are provided with run-on support to fill the gap of the five-week wait for their first welfare payment.

Our letter to the re-elected Prime Minister still stands – read it here.

We strongly believe that the current system, whereby one cohort of refugees is provided with intensive, government-funded support while the other is not, must change without delay. To learn more about our recommendations for how the new government should redress this imbalance, read our policy brief here.