The Illegal Migration Act, passed into law this week, effectively extinguishes the right to claim asylum in Britain for anyone the government decides has arrived ‘irregularly’. It threatens to destabilise refugee conventions, the global cooperation underpinning them, and creates an appalling legacy for the UK. And it will come at huge cost to our economy.
We can all agree that the asylum system is broken. But it is broken because its foundation is based in fear. Fear that people ‘coming here from over there’ are trying to play the system, steal opportunities, or carry out criminal behaviour.
This is objectively false. Research based on 30 years of data from 15 countries shows that refugees unlock growth, reduce unemployment, and strengthen our economy. Meanwhile, studies in Switzerland suggest each additional year of asylum waiting time reduces a refugee’s employment rate by 5%.
There are 100 million displaced people around the world, and they have the same right as you or me; to live freely, without fear, in a safe home. After all, that concept is enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Instead, we have a government that is perpetuating a system towards refugees that is ineffective or malicious, sometimes both.
Elsewhere in Europe, Italy has declared a state of emergency over ‘migrant congestion’, resorting to polarising rhetoric around “clandestine foreigners” instead of the grave humanitarian situation at hand. In the US, despite President Biden’s desire to establish a humane asylum system, proposed measures to deter people crossing the US/Mexico border will only increase reliance on dangerous routes.
The act of claiming asylum is fundamentally not illegal. Three quarters of those who enter into the UK’s protracted immigration system are granted asylum and this number only increases on appeal. These are people escaping trauma, persecution, conflict and the devastating impact of climate change.