The UK Policy on Refugees

by Yasmin Tuerner

Image Credit: The Brookings Institution

Now that there has been a decline in the number of new refugees entering the UK, it is important to understand the position that British law and policies have towards these people in need.

I will try to summarise the asylum system as briefly as possible, as it is very complex and strictly controlled (Refugee Council, 2017). The House of Commons continues to encourage refugees to take dangerous journey to Europe to reach safety. Asylum policies are mainly the responsibility of the Home Office. They take care of aspects relating to immigration such as asylum, border control laws and nationality. ‘Asylum’ is the term given to the protection offered to individuals who are fleeing persecution in their own country (Library of Congress, 2017).

The application process starts at the UK borders, where a fast-track process has been implemented to accelerate the process and reduce an overload of asylum cases. For those who originate from a country which the UK assesses as ‘safe’, there is an immediate rejection. For the remainder, the decision is made based on well-established criteria, assessing for instance if the individual has a fear of persecution or other harm. (Library of Congress, 2017) There are various pathways for these people. Those who receive refugee status can stay in the UK, whilst those who get rejected might have a chance to remain too for humanitarian or other reasons. Those who do not fit into any of the aforementioned categories, and where a removal would break the UK’s human rights obligations, may be granted temporary permission to remain in the UK. But there are further conditions deciding on this. Since the Syrian crisis, a new program has been refined which accepts selected refugees from that region: the Syrian Vulnerable Person Resettlement Programme (VPRP) where over 7 thousand people have been granted humanitarian protection (House of Commons, 2017).

The asylum seekers who have been granted to remain in the UK often live in poverty or experience poor health and hunger. This links to the fact that almost all asylum seekers are not allowed to work and are forced to rely on limited state support. Generally, it is extremely difficult for refugees to get asylum, meaning there are many rejections and that the decision-making process are tough. One of the regulations, if refugees are being recognised, is that they are only permitted to stay in the UK for five years. This gives them extreme uncertainty about their future plans and endeavours, and if they can even make definite life plans in the UK.


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