The UK has a proud history of providing asylum to people fleeing violence and persecution. However, there are serious concerns about the effectiveness of our current asylum system and also the lack of transparency and accountability.
The ‘Waiting in the Dark’ report by Refugee Action argues that the asylum system dehumanises, disempowers and damages those who rely on it. The report highlights how people are often waiting more than six months, sometimes years, for a decision on their asylum claim. Home Office figures show that at the end of December 2017, over 10,000 people had been waiting more than six months for an initial decision on their asylum application. When too long is taken to decide a claim, real people suffer.
Last year, Refugee Action’s ‘Slipping through the Cracks’ report also highlighted several issues around access to asylum support.
The government says it is committed to ensuring that all asylum seekers are kept in safe accommodation, yet the current arrangements for housing and dispersing refugees are not fit for purpose. Asylum seekers are overwhelmingly accommodated in poorer areas of the country. Those seeking asylum and the communities where they are allocated are too often being let down.
Reduced access to legal aid is having disturbing consequences for the delivery of justice. Legal aid should be available where it is urgently needed and this includes for immigration cases.
We need asylum applications to be dealt with quickly, fairly and compassionately so that refugees are not left waiting for prolonged periods of time for a decision. I would like to see an end to the entire hostile environment policy and a review of how the Home Office treats immigrants and asylum seekers. The government should carefully consider the points raised by Refugee Action in its recent reports.
I will continue to follow this issue closely and press for a fairer and more humane asylum and immigration system.