Thank you to everyone who has contacted me about the UK’s asylum system in recent weeks.
As you know, the Government has proposed changes to the system, including the removal of asylum seekers who arrived in the UK illegally if they passed through a safe country on their way.
While I am concerned about the increased number of small boat crossings of the English Channel – especially given the danger these pose to those involved – I am also concerned that the asylum system has become appalling slow at processing applications over the last decade. The share of asylum applications that received an initial decision within six months fell from 87% in 2014 to just 20% in 2019. I believe the blame for this rests with nobody else but Government Ministers and the leadership at the Home Office.
Last year, while people who have already faced extraordinary hardship risked their lives to get to the UK, the Government lurched from one headline-grabbing announcement to another instead of developing the multifaceted solutions that were desperately needed to address the issue.
We know that a lack of safe routes leads to more people risking their lives by making dangerous journeys. Unfortunately, I think the Home Office’s approach has been lacking in compassion and a meaningful strategy; while the Government notes the importance of safe and legal routes in its recent asylum proposals, the UK’s current resettlement scheme is suspended. The Dubs scheme was also shamefully closed after accepting just 480 unaccompanied children rather than the 3,000 expected.
I fear the reality of the new proposals announced by the Home Secretary in March is that they will do next to nothing to stop people making dangerous journeys, while risking withdrawing support from desperate people. More generally, we know that one of the key drivers of people fleeing their homes to seek sanctuary elsewhere is the impact of poverty, wars and persecution. I think it is therefore deeply regrettable that the Government took the decision to abolish the Department for International Development last year.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government to treat asylum seekers with the dignity they deserve and to address the deeply entrenched structural problems within the current asylum system.