We need to #StartSafeRoutes

13 March 2023

Whilst 160,000 people wait in a backlog for asylum decisions, far-right targeting of people seeking asylum increases, and inflammatory language continues to be used by the Home Secretary, the UK Home Office has announced their Illegal Migration Bill. The policy is an attempt to #StopTheBoats by effectively banning people who cross the Channel in small boats from claiming asylum. 

A majority of those arriving in the UK on small boats do not have a choice over how they travel. There are no resettlement routes for them. There is no way for them to claim asylum here from outside of the UK. Unlike those from Ukraine who have access to resettlement schemes, those fleeing from countries such as Sudan, Eritrea and Iran are instead forced to take routes over land and sea, risking their lives to reach safer shores.

International human rights legislation which the UK is a signatory to, states that every person has the right to seek and enjoy asylum from persecution. It also states that no person seeking asylum should be discriminated against due to entering a safe country without authorisation. Nonetheless, the UK Home Office’s new Illegal Migration Bill suggests that any person who does not arrive through a resettlement scheme will be considered ineligible for asylum here.

Suella Braverman is continuing her incendiary language despite continuous warnings from refugee charities. Suggesting ‘billions’ of people are coming to the UK, she is creating the illusion of people seeking safety overwhelming the UK. This is far from the truth. Last year, fewer people crossed the Channel seeking safety than can fit in Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow. We are accepting fewer people seeking asylum than many states in Europe, and yet still we are hearing politicians demonising those in most need.

We have been here before. Constant attempts to delegitimise people seeking safety have resulted in some bizarre policy proposals intended more to distract than to find effective solutions. In the last three years, we have seen promised policies include Border Force staff on jet skis, wave machines in the Channel, and deportations to Rwanda. None of these have worked.

Where will the Government detain those people they deem to be ineligible for our asylum system? Where will they deport these people? Without clear deals with any other countries, the Home Office’s promise to deport people away from the UK is hanging by a thread. They will, most likely, end up detaining people in the UK, making this policy an incredibly expensive and harmful decision. We have already seen reports that there are attempts to expand the UK detention estate, especially concerning given the allegations regarding border force staff and accommodation conditions in both Napier Barracks and Manston Processing Facility.

How will they ensure this does not break international human rights law? Why choose the least humane and most expensive policy when compassionate options are possible?

Without creating any practical solutions, this policy is about dividing, distracting and demonising. There is a clear option for the Home Office right now, to limit dangerous journeys and uphold international human rights laws; the Government must provide safe and legal routes. Don’t #StopTheBoats. #StartSafeRoutes. This would ensure that people seeking safety are given safe options to reach asylum, and are able to enjoy their asylum upon arrival. We cannot continue with this system that is designed to fail- it is time for some solutions.



Iona Taylor

Head of the Campaigns Team

Positive Action in Housing 

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