The images of pateras crossing the English Channel, which separates Great Britain from the French coast, they flooded the news in the United Kingdom during the summer of 2020, causing alarm among the British population.
Although the stretch of water that separates the two countries has been the protagonist of human trafficking for more than 20 years in trucks and trains, in the second half of 2020, crossings in patera increased to 2,012 people, compared to 393 in the same period of 2019, and 4 in 2018.
According to the Oxford University Migration Observatory, 98% of these people applied for asylum upon entering the country, but they only represent a quarter of the requests 2020.
The package of proposals for new asylum legislation, presented by the British Home Office last March, includes the stricter reforms that have been implemented in the country in the area of immigration since the approval of the Aliens Act of 1971.
The document includes more than 40 changes to existing legislation to fix “a broken system that is giving wings to the international criminal trafficking of people “, in the words of the Minister of the Interior, Priti Patel. Among the proposals, are discriminate between asylum seekers according to whether they have entered the UK via regular or irregular routes and the deportation of applicants to a country of safe transit through which they have passed on their journey, both denounced by the UN for jeopardizing the integrity of the international asylum system.
The Brexit vote is largely seen to have given a mandate to impose these changes: during the referendum campaign, a segment of voters was mobilized around the fear of immigrants.
Ironically, the European Union (EU) has denied the possibility of establishing a bilateral agreement return of asylum seekers, reducing the chances of deportation of asylum seekers to a country of transit. Compared to absolute numbers in the rest of the EU, the UK is the seventh most refugee country.
Mackenzie: “I don’t understand why the British Government thought the EU would want to get involved in this proposal.”
Alasdair Mackenzie, an immigration attorney at Doughty Street Chambers, said: “It is a culture war, a decision that the Government has taken to obtain political points on the UK domestic political scene. “” I do not understand why the British Government thought the EU would want to get involved in this proposal, “said the immigration expert, who has worked for years as an activist for refugee rights.
To prevent asylum seekers from being able to choose their destination country within the EU, the Union regulates the arrival of asylum seekers through the Dublin III regulation, a legal tool that establishes that the first country of entry is where an asylum seeker must process their case.
This policy has caused conflicts since its introduction in 1997 among member states, as it puts much more pressure on southern states such as Italy, Greece and Spain, whose geography makes them more vulnerable to being an entry point than northern states such as Germany, Sweden and , until January 2021, UK.
As with the rest of European legislation, the United Kingdom ceased to be covered under the Dublin regulation after its departure from the EU. If now I wanted to recover the right to deport to asylum seekers to the country they come from, you would need to create returns agreements with its neighboring countries.
However, as reported The GuardianUK Home Office sources have confirmed that the UK has been unable to persuade any EU state to support its new system of return to a safe country.
A broken system
Leni Candan, head of communication for UKLGIG, a support group for asylum seekers and refugees from the LGTB community, described the impact that these measures will have on the lives of the people of the group, who would be even more exposed after the changes. The UKLGIG team has conveyed these concerns to the UK Government during a consultative process that ended last week.
Candan: “We don’t think they will listen to our concerns”
“But we do not believe that they will listen to our concerns, because we expect the bill in just a few weeks and they will not have time to modify anything based on our complaints or problems that we indicated in the consultation “, indicated the activist.
Refugee status is regulated at the international level through the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, ratified in the 1967 protocol, which defines who has the right to request protection in other countries and what principles must be presented at all times to ensure that protection is valid. The United Kingdom was one of the countries that contributed to drafting it.
While deportations to safe countries, such as those carried out under the Dublin III regulation, are recognized in the international law, other changes proposed by the Government, such as favoring refugees who enter the country through legal channels, oppose the principle of non-discrimination, a fundamental part of the convention.
Unhcr, the UN Refugee Agency, has spoken out against changes with a public comment, in which he stated that “given the manageable number of asylum seekers in the UK, UNHCR believes that the introduction of most of these proposals would not address the deficiencies that exist in the asylum and immigration system. “. “Unhcr expresses its dismay with this proposal for a revision to the principles of the 1951 Convention,” he explains.
Mackenzie, the immigration lawyer, highlighted: “It is important that we remember the context in which the convention was drafted, which is that of the Holocaust, when thousands of people were denied the protection they required in Western countries while they tried to escape the Nazi Germany for not having the correct papers. “
Public has tried to contact the British Home Office, which has not responded to the allegations in this article.