After scrapping a previously pledged target on the resettlement programme for refugees Tory MPs have called on the Home Office to commit to welcoming a specific number of refugees under the resettlement programme.
Tory MP David Simmonds and former immigration minister Caroline Nokes are among politicians who have signed a statement urging for ‘unity rather than hostility’ in the public debate around immigration following the Nationality and Borders bill that was put before Parliament last week.
In a recent statement they expressed their concern regarding the facts that as part of its new immigration plans, the Home Office has dropped its target to resettle 5,000 refugees in the first year of the new ‘global resettlement scheme’.
When announcing the new plans Home Secretary Priti Patel said the department would ‘maintain its long-term commitment to resettle refugees from around the globe’ – but without giving a specific number and/or a timeframe.
The statement which was also signed by Tim Farron, Neil Coyle and Rt Rev Paul Butler says: “Together we will continue to call for the creation of safe routes for refugees to travel to the UK for protection. In order for safe routes to have the desired effect of preventing people from making dangerous journeys, it is necessary to have sufficient ambition regarding the overall number of people able to access the routes provided”.
“The existing safe routes should be maintained not reduced”.
The UNHCR, which works with countries across the globe to facilitate refugee resettlement, has also raised alarm regarding the absence of a numerical commitment, warning that it would complicate the process.
The organisation said: “Having clarity on the numbers of refugees that are arriving via resettlement now and in future years is important for managing the programme – for UNHCR as well as local authorities and partners, who need clarity to be able to retain skilled staff. It also helps manage refugees’ expectations”.
This all comes among widespread concern regarding the Home Office’s planned asylum overhaul, which would see refugees who arrive in the UK via unauthorised means – more than six in ten of those who arrived in recent years – denied permanent protection.
The Nationality and Borders Bill laid in parliament would enable immigration officers to intercept vessels in British waters and take them to foreign ports – a controversial practice known as pushback. It would also allow the Home Office to send asylum seekers overseas while their claims are processed, in a similar way to the offshore policies introduced in Australia in 2013. Rwanda, Ascension Island and Gibralter have been mentioned as potential offshore locations.
The UN has warned that the UK’s plans took an ‘almost neo-colonial approach’ and was designed to shift the responsibility for protecting refugees away from Britain.
The assistant high commissioner for protection at the UNHCR, Gillian Triggs, said during a Chatham House briefing that the UK appeared to be trying to ‘wash its hands’ of its international responsibilities.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “No one should be in any doubt of our commitment to build upon our proud history of resettling refugees in need of protection. We havc a strong track record and since 2015 we have resettled more than 25,000 vulnerable refugees, around half of whom are children”.
“Through our New Plan for Immigration we will strengthen safe and legal routes to the UK for refugees from regions of conflict and instability, and discourage dangerous journeys. This is not about numbers – those we resettle will be supported to integrate into their communities, and we will provide them with support with a focus on the English Language and employment to help them rebuild their lives in the UK”.