U.K. Home Office

Home Office refuses to release study about why people seeking asylum come to the U.K.

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Law & Policy

The U.K.’s interior ministry is refusing to release research into the factors which encourage people to migrate to the United Kingdom. Charities believe ministers are choosing not to publish the evidence because it would contradict the government’s claim that accepting people seeking asylum would constitute a pull factor for others considering the journey.

This week, at least 27 people tragically died while making the perilous journey across the English Channel as a result of the U.K.’s inhumane policies that do not provide safe, legal routes to the U.K. and do not provide humanitarian visas for people seeking asylum.

Measures set out in the new Nationality and Borders Bill will only tighten restrictions and make it more difficult for modern slavery survivors to be identified and access the support they’re entitled to. This is unacceptable. Please write to your MP urgently asking them to take a stand against these harmful measures.

Home Office provides no evidence to support pull factor claim 

The Guardian reports: 

Home Office minister Chris Philp has claimed that accepting asylum seekers who have travelled through Europe “creates a pull factor where migrants are incentivised to undertake dangerous and illegal journeys”.

Yet when the Home Office was asked for evidence to support its claims, it refused. A freedom of information response dated 28 October says the material could not be disclosed because it was “likely to inhibit the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation”.

Sophie McCann, advocacy officer at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) UK accused ministers of knowing their arguments were ill-founded. McCann said: “Ministers are covering up evidence that is central to their case for the need to target refugees and asylum seekers with inhumane ‘deterrence’ measures.

“They know their arguments don’t stand up” 

The number of people seeking asylum crossing the English Channel in small boats has risen sharply this year. Last year saw just 8,500 arrivals compared to 23,000 in 2021. Nearly two-thirds of the people arriving this way are considered refugees and given leave to remain. But experts say that the increase in boat arrivals is associated with the heightened security measures along other entry routes. 

Past Home Office research has undermined the pull factor argument for stricter immigration policies. One report says: “They [asylum seekers] are guided more by agents, the presence or absence of family and friends, language, and perceived cultural affinities than by scrutiny of asylum policies or rational evaluation of the welfare benefits on offer.” 

McCann argues: “It is hard to see why the government would refuse to share evidence that supports its plans – the only conclusion to draw is that they know their arguments don’t stand up.” 

Concern over Nationality and Borders Bill 

The refusal to provide evidence for claims underpinning the U.K.’s current approach to border control comes as the controversial Nationality and Borders Bill is being debated in Parliament. The bill has been criticized by senior police officers and rights organizations, including Freedom United.

Measures in the bill would set a time limit on when a person can disclose that they have experienced trafficking or exploitation. Late disclosure would thus prevent survivors from accessing the support they would otherwise be entitled to.  

Together with 50+ anti-slavery leaders, Freedom United has raised serious concerns around Part 4 of the Nationality and Borders Bill. Read the full statement here. Join us in calling for urgent changes to the bill to protect survivors. Contact your U.K. MP today!

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