More than 100 charities, human rights groups and cross-party MPs are calling for a change in direction on refugee policy following the current Afghan crisis.
A the Taliban now appear to be in complete control of the country a letter to Priti Patel, Home Secretary from the coalition group urges her to ensure that the thousands of refugees who are forced to flee are not criminalised because of how they arrive in Britain, as the Nationality and Borders bill currently before Parliament proposes the introduction of a prison term for asylum seekers who do not reach this country using the so called ‘official’ route.
Boris Johnson, Prime Minister, yesterday announced an emergency resettlement scheme that will allow 20,000 Afghans to settle in Britain during the next five years, with 5,000 due by the end of this year.
However, the signatories of the coalition’s letter, which include the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), the Afghan Council of Great Britain and Global Justice Now, are concerned that those forced to travel without first applying to the scheme must not be denied refugee status. For many ‘regulated travel’ will not be an option as many people flee urgently by any means necessary.
Satbir Singh, JCWI chief executive, said: “Our asylum system should proved people with protection, regardless of the route they take to flee. Unfortunately the government’s new anti-refugee Bill seems set to do the very opposite, denying people refugee status and even criminalising them, based purely on their means of seeking safety”.
The government is also asked to grant immediate protection to Afghans with ongoing protection claims, to release Afghan nationals from detention and to ensure relocation schemes are open to all at-risk professions.
A group of approximately 40 MPs have written to Priti Patel saying that it was within the governments remit to provide a ‘world leading compassionate response’ to this crisis.
Home Office figures recently showed that nearly 3,000 Afghans are still awaiting the outcome of asylum claims from March, while the department had rejected more than half of applicants from the country in the last three months of 2020.