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Letter to the Government: Proposed Refugee Legislation

Letter sent to the Prime Minister and Home Secretary, dated 19 March 2023

“We are writing from the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF UK). Our organisation has been analysing the root causes of war and conflict for over 100 years, and seeking sustainable solutions. WILPF considers that it is essential to recognise the conditions that drive people to become refugees: including conflict, war, torture, earthquakes, drought or floods. First and foremost, “We the peoples” – the wording chosen for the preamble to the United Nations Charter – need to seek positive solutions to the world’s conflicts while accepting our humanitarian responsibilities to those who seek refuge. WILPF has a particular concern for women who are especially vulnerable and targeted when fleeing conflict.

The UK, although one of the richest countries in the world, is host to only 1% of the world’s displaced people; 72% of the people fleeing their homes move to neighbouring, often poor, developing countries. Of the limited number of refugees reaching Europe in 2020, Germany (124.3k), France (103.3k) and Spain (108k) all welcomed far larger numbers than the UK.

The UK insists that people seeking asylum must be in this country before they make an application. Yet questions in Parliament have shown that under your Government, the UK only has a safe and legal way for refugees from a select group of countries reach the UK in order to submit a claim. Since we live on an island, these desperate people, preyed on by people smugglers, are now trying to reach the UK on small boats. This perilous method of travel does not invalidate their need for protection, it simply underlines their desperation to reach a place of safety and sanctuary.

The UK’s first obligation must be to offer safe, efficient routes for any asylum seeker to come to Britain. Then, if the UK were to invest in personnel to process asylum applications, and reinstate legal aid, the situation would be much improved. There are other proposals that would improve the situation and could remove the obligation to house asylum seekers in hotel accommodation. One example would be to allow adult refugees already in the UK to sponsor their adult children and siblings under the age of 25; another example would be for unaccompanied refugee children already in the UK to be given the right to sponsor their parents and any siblings under the age of 25 to join them under the refugee family reunion rules.

Sadly the Government is proposing instead to introduce legislation which the UN suggests is “extinguishing the right to seek refugee protection in the UK ….no matter how genuine and compelling their claim may be”. These proposals are, according to the UN, “a clear breach of the refugee convention”. In addition, migrants will be detained and not allowed bail or be able to seek judicial review for the first 28 days of detention – flouting UK legal traditions.

WILPF UK would like to hear that you have reconsidered your proposals 1) to meet our international obligations; 2) to repair our tarnished global reputation as a country that has lost its humanity; and 3) to offer refugees the welcome they deserve.”

Yours in peace
Paula Shaw
Joint Secretary WILPF UK

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