Afghan refugees could be punished under new UK asylum laws, say charities

Refugee charities have questioned how the government’s announcement of “one of the most generous” resettlement schemes in British history will work alongside proposed changes to the UK’s asylum system, designed to criminalise refugees who travel to Britain independently by boat or lorry.

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees welcomed the announcement of a scheme that aims to resettle 5,000 people from Afghanistan within the next year and 20,000 in the longer term. But staff stressed that demand for resettlement schemes invariably falls short of allocated places, and said the government should not punish Afghan refugees who make their own way to the UK to claim asylum.

“We have seen from the images from アフガニスタン that in the chaos of conflict, people have no choice but to cross borders without visas, without the correct documentation, and they shouldn’t be penalised for that,” Laura Padoan, UNHCR spokesperson said.

“The UK needs to preserve the right to asylum for Afghans and others arriving spontaneously in the UK, a right under threat from the nationality and borders bill returning to parliament next month. It would be contradictory to recognise that Afghans are facing danger and are in need of protection but then punish them should they make their way to the UK.”

The government intends to make it a criminal offence to arrive in the UK without entry clearance, introducing tougher sentences for those found doing so and for people-smugglers. Once the changes are introduced, whether someone enters the UK legally or illegally will affect the progress of their asylum claim and their status in the UK, if their bid is successful.

But some campaigners expressed hope that the scenes of desperation in Kabul this week would make politicians less willing to introduce a toughened asylum regime.

Colin Yeo, an immigration lawyer and author of Welcome to Britain: Fixing Our Broken Immigration System, 前記: “It would be really retrograde to move from an internationally agreed system based on the refugee convention, where refugees have some agency and choice about where they can go, to one where countries just handpick a small number of refugees for resettlement and then throw the rest in prison if they arrived by irregular means. Perhaps now some Conservative MPs may be more aware that penalising refugees for the means of their arrival isn’t a sensible way forward.”

Satbir Singh, chair of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, agreed, 追加: “The scenes which everyone saw at Kabul airport show what it is to flee from an emergency. So when politicians say, ‘You should have travelled here legally,’ or, ‘You should have stopped in the first safe country you got to,’ they will need to match that against the reality of men and women dropping from planes as they are taking off. That’s how desperate people are. They don’t have the luxury of waiting around for an online application to open up.”

In radio interviews, 内務大臣, プリティ・パテル, indicated that she saw no contradiction between the announcement by her colleague Dominic Raab of a “big-hearted” approach, and the proposed new asylum legislation, arguing that the resettlement scheme would give priority to women and girls, and others most vulnerable to dehumanising treatment by the Taliban. Those who travelled to the UK on small boats “tend to be predominantly single men”, 彼女は言いました.

But campaigners said it was important not to have such a restricted definition of vulnerability. “We should not overlook the fact that young boys may need to seek refuge because they are the first at risk of being conscripted and turned into child soldiers,” Singh added.

Steve Valdez-Symonds, the refugee and migrant rights director at Amnesty International UK, said it was unreasonable for Britain to close its borders to refugees forced to take unauthorised routes into the country, while expecting Iran and Pakistan to keep their borders open to allow people to flee. “It’s an appalling message to send to those countries which have been hosting very large numbers of refugees for decades," 彼は言った.

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