CHAPTER 10 – PROTECTING THE VULNERABLE
The realities of conflict, violence and persecution continue to cause displacement. The UK has a proud history of offering asylum and giving protection to those who need it, including refugees forced to leave their countries. We are determined to ensure that leaving the EU does not change the UK’s proactive commitment to support vulnerable people, including the commitment to helping and supporting the most vulnerable children affected by the migration crisis.
We will continue to work closely with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to identify vulnerable refugees whom UNHCR identify to be in need of resettlement. Resettlement is one part of the UK’s response to the refugee crisis and our efforts will continue to be complemented by the UK’s humanitarian aid programme.
Our policies will continue to provide protection for those who are the most vulnerable and ensuring that those legally in the UK are able to evidence their lawful status, and we will continue to take tough action against those who exploit vulnerable individuals.
Human Trafficking and Modern Slavery
10.1 We are committed to stamping out modern slavery. The Modern Slavery Act 2015 gives law enforcement the tools to fight modern slavery, ensure perpetrators receive suitably severe punishments for these appalling crimes, and enhance support and protection for victims.
10.2 We are continuing to work with international partners to secure our borders from a range of threats, including human trafficking. We are building links between antitrafficking agencies in Niger and Nigeria. We are also supporting work to improve the capacity of law enforcement partners in the Horn of Africa region to share information and tackle those involved in people smuggling and human trafficking.
Asylum and resettlement
10.3 We are committed to supporting victims of conflict, violence and persecution, which will not change when we leave the EU. The UK has a long and proud tradition of providing protection to those who need it. As a signatory to the Refugee Convention, we consider claims for asylum in accordance with our international obligations and domestic laws.
The 1951 Refugee Convention
10.4 The UK will also continue to provide support and protection to the world’s most vulnerable refugees under our four resettlement schemes: Gateway, Mandate, the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) and the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme (VCRS).
10.5 These schemes ensure that we are able to purposefully target those in greatest need of assistance, including people requiring urgent medical treatment, survivors of violence and torture, and women and children at risk.
10.6 We are confident that we are on track to meet our resettlement commitments and we are currently considering what the future of resettlement should look like after our current commitments to 2020.
The Convention is a United Nations multilateral treaty that defines the term ‘refugee’ and outlines the rights of the displaced, including individuals who are granted asylum, and the legal obligations of nations to protect them. The Convention also sets out which people do not qualify as refugees, such as war criminals.
In the year ending September 2018, 5,994 people were provided with protection and support under one of the four UK resettlement schemes.
- As of September 2018, a total of 13,961 people had been resettled in the UK under the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme (VPRS) since it began across 297 local authorities.
- As of September 2018, a total of 1,075 people had been resettled through the Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme. Over half of those resettled under VCRS were under 18 years old (613).
- Eurostat figures show that in 2017 the UK resettled more refugees from outside Europe than any other EU member state.
Overall, in 2017, over a fifth of all resettlement to the EU was to the UK (overall resettlement to the EU in 2017 was 27,450, resettlement to the UK was 6,212).
10.7 English language proficiency is still a barrier to integration into society for many people. We are committed to changing this so that all new citizens are given the opportunity to speak the same language which will support them in being able to forge a pathway to self-sufficiency. We plan to secure an ambitious and wellfunded English language strategy to ensure that everyone in this country, especially those with newly recognised refugee status, are supported to speak the same language. Proposals will be published in a wider Integrated Communities Strategy shortly.
10.8 The decision to relocate individuals is a difficult and complicated one for the vulnerable people involved, often taken after having remained in their home region for as long as possible. Resettlement is only one strand of our efforts. It is complemented by the UK’s significant in-region humanitarian aid programme and diplomatic efforts.
10.9 The UK will continue to engage fully and constructively with the EU on migration and security issues after exit. We will continue to provide global leadership and practical support to tackle key migration challenges. We have pursued an ambitious programme of reform at the border, including investment in new technology, to keep the UK safe and secure from a range of threats, and prevent
10.10 The UK’s asylum system is designed to deliver our obligations under the Refugee Convention and domestic law, in which we will continue to participate after we leave the EU. The Government remains bound by the European Convention on Human Rights and will continue to meet our obligations.
10.11 In 2017, there were 34,435 asylum applications (including dependents) made in the UK. We remain committed to protecting the rights of asylum seekers, and we will continue to carefully consider every claim on its own merits against a background of relevant case law and up to date country information.
10.12 We will continue to work to improve both the quality and accuracy of decision making to prioritise getting decisions right the first time. We are exploring what more we can do to ensure that barriers to decisions are cleared so that there are no unnecessary delays in granting people protection where it is needed.
10.13 We will continue to ensure that where needed, asylum seekers will receive government support until their claim and any appeal is determined. Asylum seekers who would otherwise be destitute will continue to be provided with free, fully furnished accommodation throughout the whole time that their claim is being considered. In addition, we will continue to cover utility costs and provide a cash allowance to cover other essential living needs.
10.14 Furthermore, we recognise the importance of work when it comes to physical and mental wellbeing, building a sense of wider contribution to our society, and for community integration. That is why the Government has committed to listening carefully to the complex arguments around permitting asylum seekers to work. We are considering all the evidence to ensure that our policy of right to work safeguards the integrity of both our asylum and immigration systems.
10.15 Many of the individuals who are arriving in Europe do not meet the requirements of the Convention and are not in need of international protection. In this context, and to ensure that we focus on offering protection to the most vulnerable who need our support, it is right that the Government’s priority is to take measures that stop migrants from undertaking the potentially perilous journeys in the first place and to avoid illegal migration from safe countries undermining our efforts to help those
most in need.
10.16 Asylum, if required, should always be claimed in the first safe country that a migrant reaches. We intend to negotiate and implement a new legal framework to return illegal migrants, including asylum seekers, to EU countries they have travelled through, or have a connection with, to have their protection claim considered, where necessary. It is vitally important that our new system does not encourage asylum seekers who have already reached a safe country to choose to move elsewhere. Equally the system must prevent people from making claims in more than one country, and on multiple occasions.
10.17 We are proud of the protection the UK has offered to vulnerable and unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. The UK provided protection to almost 6,000 children in 2017 and more than 31,000 since the start of 2010. It is essential that our future system continues to offer this vital support and we are fully committed to helping and supporting the most vulnerable children affected by themigration crisis. Our national scheme for the transfer of these children away from the South East of England has successfully benefitted the children and alleviated pressure on local authorities. Additionally, in July 2016 we increased the funding we provide to local authorities for unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and are currently completing a review of the grant rate, which we intend to publish in due
10.18 At the same time, we recognise the importance of family unity, and are committed to negotiating an agreement with the EU under which unaccompanied asylum-seeking children in the EU can join close family members in the UK, and vice versa, where it is considered to be in their best interest.
10.19 The Government’s existing approach to family reunion provides a comprehensive framework to bring families together, including provisions in the Immigration Rules. This will not change when the UK leaves the EU. Under this policy, we have granted visas to over 26,000 partners and children of those granted protection in the UK in the last five years – this is over 5,000 people a year.
10.20 In July 2016, we made clear that there is discretion to grant a visa outside of the Immigration Rules, which ensures we can cater for extended family members in exceptional circumstances.
10.21 We intend to maintain our position around refugee children in the UK not being allowed to sponsor parents. We believe that if children were allowed to sponsor parents, this would risk creating incentives for more children to be encouraged, or even forced, to leave their family and risk hazardous journeys to the UK. This position supports our commitment to protecting vulnerable individuals.
10.22 Domestically, we are determined that EU exit will not increase the opportunities for abuse of the asylum system. We will continue to ensure that asylum claims from EU citizens are treated as inadmissible, as they are now, except in exceptional circumstances.
10.23 Our focus will be on supporting those who have not yet had a decision on their asylum claim and who may need our protection and on helping those who have been granted refugee status with integrating into British society and fulfilling their potential.
10.24 Those who are found not to need protection are refused asylum but have a right of appeal to the independent courts. It is important that once all appeal rights are exhausted, failed asylum seekers are required to leave the UK voluntarily. We are clear that public money should not be used to support illegal migrants, including failed asylum-seekers, who should be preparing to leave the UK.
10.25 We will maintain our comprehensive programme of work that is proven to discourage asylum ‘shoppers’ and unfounded claims. The Immigration Act 2016, which introduced measures to ensure people who genuinely need support can get it, also restricted the availability of support for individuals with unfounded claims, consistent with our international and human rights obligations. Importantly this
removes incentives for migrants to remain in the UK where they have no lawful basis for doing so and sends a very clear message to those who seek to exploit the system that Britain is not a soft touch on asylum.
10.26 In 2016, at the invitation of the French Government, the UK Government acted decisively during the Calais camp clearance to remove 769 vulnerable children from a dangerous situation where they were at risk of violence and abuse. Of those children, 220 were transferred in accordance with section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 (the ‘Dubs’ amendment); the remaining 549 cases were transferred to reunite with family members already in the UK.
10.27 In January 2018, as part of the Sandhurst Treaty between the UK and France, we announced a number of specific measures to strengthen our co-operation to supporting unaccompanied asylum seeking and refugee children. These included: the deployment of an asylum liaison officer to France to support transfers under section 67 of the Immigration Act 2016 and the Dublin Regulation; commitment to shorter timescales for decisions and transfers under the Dublin Regulation; and allocation of a £3.6 million development fund to identify projects which support genuine claims through the Dublin process and ensure that those with no prospectof transferring to the UK are informed of their options.