There is a practical answer to the refugee crisis
Asylum-seeking has been a cat-and-mouse game for too long
Who could not be in favour of humanitarian visas for asylum-seekers who would not have to cross the Channel in a dinghy? Humanitarian visas are the refugee lobby alternative to the Government’s plan to disincentivise such irregular entry by sending people to Rwanda.
But it doesn’t solve the underlying selection problem faced by all rich countries when it comes to refugees and asylum-seekers. How should recipients of humanitarian visas be chosen? Refugee organisations surely do not think that anyone who applies should get one. For there is a lot of misery in the world, and it is not that hard to get to the English Channel.
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Rich countries’ governments pay lip service to the idea of asylum. But thanks to the greater ease of movement since the original refugee rules were established in the 1950s, and the more liberal human rights regimes that prevent most people from being deported, tens of millions of people could legitimately claim the right to stay in the UK. So UK Governments, of all colours, as well as those of other rich countries, spend millions of pounds each year doing their hardest to stop people coming by normal and irregular routes.
Asylum-seeking thus becomes a game of cat and mouse between the border authorities and would-be asylum seekers, and a survival of the fittest free-for-all, mainly undertaken by young men from families wealthy enough to pay the smugglers. When the numbers are low and the method of entry, via visa over-staying or coming on lorries, is invisible, the issue excites little attention. But when a highly visible new route opens up, like the Channel crossings, and numbers escalate, the Government invents new ways, such as deportation to Rwanda, to try to close it down.
So wouldn’t it be nice if there were such a thing as safe and legal routes that the most needy refugees could use but with Government control on selection and numbers? In the last few weeks, and notably in a Policy Exchange speech by Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, the Government has talked more about such routes, aware that a hard line in the Channel, maybe including a suspension of some human rights legislation, needs moral legitimacy.
The first point the Government makes is that there are safe and legal routes: indeed, around 500,000 people have come through them since 2015. Most recently the Syria programme (20,000), various Afghan programmes (21,000), the Ukraine scheme (over 150,000) and Hong Kongers (90,000).
Refugee lobby critics complain, reasonably enough, that there is no generic safe route for people in dire circumstances in, say, Iran or Iraq. The answer to this is to create a more general safe route, modelled on the successful Syria programme, in which the UK authorities would select people, usually women and children, from UNHCR camps in Asia, Africa or the Middle East, possibly with help from refugee organisations.
Numbers would be capped at, say, 15,000 a year, or more if the high inflows on current country-specific programmes fall. If someone from Iran or Iraq or Eritrea can get to France, they can get to a UNHCR camp and apply to join the queue for the UK. And, learning from the Ukraine scheme, those who have arrived in the UK should where possible be placed with family or community sponsors, as housing remains one of the biggest blockages and costs (around £2bn a year at the last count) to bringing people here.
A third, and much smaller, safe and legal route — call it the red route — would be reserved for the people for whom the 1951 Refugee Convention was originally designed: those facing acute persecution and whose lives may be threatened. Think of the gay son of a Taliban leader who has managed to escape to a camp in Pakistan but knows that his father wants him dead, or an opposition activist in an African state who fears an accidental death is being arranged for him. In order to get onto this danger list you would need to convince a standing committee of Home Office representatives, responsible NGOs (such as Amnesty), security services and the local UK ambassador.
Such a three-tier safe and legal system would not stop all irregular entry, but it would justify taking a hard line against it and enable Britain to do its bit for the refugee problem in a way that is fair on would-be asylum seekers and on British citizens, especially those in the poorest parts of the country which house the most refugees.
David Goodhart is the author of Head, Hand, Heart: The Struggle for Dignity and Status in the 21st Century.
Let’s first stop the boats, deport all illegal immigrants currently in the system, deport all foreign prisoners in our jails upon release and put a cap on legal immigration at 100k.
Then we can talk about how the refugee component of the 100k can be selected.
While I agree with your sentiment, sadly, I think that the chances of deporting our current backlog of illegals is minimal at best.
We have a huge international aid budget. Make the aid dependant upon the countries concerned accepting their nationals back.
First class proposal. In addition, all countries we have links to must also accept return of their nationals.
Problem is that most so called refuges destroyed their passports, so first you would need to find out where they are from.
Then persuade some country that person without id is really their citizen.
Not impossible in theory but unlikely in current political climate.
In default we could assume they are nationals of Afghanistan
Trouble is MM, as we’ve been over many times, what you desire not going to happen quickly as i) Rwanda will only take so many ii) we don’t have return deals with sufficient others.
So the deterrence in your proposal a paper deterrent currently – wish it weren’t TBH, but to deny otherwise self-deceiving.
What the Authors suggestion would do though is further legitimise the approach pulling far more behind it and one can’t see the harm in that. It would also undermine some of the Traffickers. And what seems clearer from the mood music is this the way Govt thinking heading. And it’s a Right Wing Tory Govt.
As regards the 100k limit – Braverman committed to a ‘net’ number being no more than 10s of thousands p.a. Of course with c500k emigrating out of UK p.a that’s still alot of immigration if focused on the ‘net’. Not all the emigration youngsters of course, but many are, thus compounding a potential demographic trap for us which Govt will be well aware of even if reluctant to engage in open discourse.
40% of 2022 immigrants and 80% of emigrants are students – coming to study, some working on the Graduate Visa for a year or two and then leaving.
Work visas only make up about 20% (200K) of the immigrants and probably nets out at around 150K.
The rest are either “family reunions” or “protection”: people on the protection schemes listed above – HK, Ukraine, Afghans with links to Britain and UNHCR (Syria).
The above schemes must surely wind down soon. Surely most Ukrainians that are leaving have already left. Ditto HK.
If you removed this “protection” element, you would be left with net immigration of about 200-250K.
It doesn’t seem impossible to squeeze that down to 100-150K over the course of a few years by raising the minimum salary threshold, creating tax incentives for automation and steering our training and education system to plug some of the holes.
As to Illegal Immigration. The PM and HS have repeatedly said that Rwanda is an uncapped scheme. What that means in reality is unclear. But how many deportations need to happen to put off people paying for a place in the boats?
As to returns agreements – the 2nd largest group of current boat crossers is Indian. We have a revised returns policy with India. We updated the policy with Albania and Albanians went for 27K in 2022 to less than 30 in 2023 so far.
These things can be done with the Political Will. And that requires the public to keep up the pressure. Remember the Tories didn’t want to have an EU referendum, when it happened they didn’t want to leave. When they realised they had to, they wanted to retain FoM (sometimes called a Soft Brexit). Now they have been forced to regain legal control over immigration numbers, they don’t want use it!
They need to be pushed every step of the way. BTW committing to an immigration cap, gradually applied, would, I think, seal the deal for Labour if they were clear-eyed enough to do it.
The population of the UK increased by approximately 11.1 million (19.8%) during the last fifty years and by approximately 3.7 million (5.9%) during the last decade.* This has to STOP, now.
Last 50 years, UK Population increase:
Note the increase after EU A10 ascension in 2005 (60M) to 2023 (67.7M) is the same growth as from 1959 (52.2M) -2005 (60M).
All true and terrible for wages and access to schools and hospitals etc. However, migrants from EU countries would integrate and apart from some strange surnames will not be noticed even one generation down the line.
It is quite the opposite for low IQ immigrants from Africa and Muslim countries.
Not only not integrating but constantly blaming racism in uk for their lack of achievement.
Planned immigration – to suck up people for jobs – is around 250,000. These are people we want to come in. The problem is the little boats.
Political will or no political will, the newcomers are first surrounded by lawyers – ambulance chasers or boat chasers – who are paid to get involved. They just delay everything indefinitely. To ban these lawyers would be against Human Rights treaties which we have signed.
To be able to do as you say would be to remove ourselves from various international treaties. That is a matter of political will. But what does that prove? Nobody is going to do it.
I fear you are right. If only we had a long-term Conservative government with a huge majority, though….
Smokescreen. More were removed each year under later years of last Lab Govt than are now. The law hasn’t changed. What’s broken down is the processing, and other policies have then helped generate an increase in arrivals.
No doubt the next response will be it’s some conspiratorial blob. Again nonsense. A well run, well led Home office would be on top of this, but instead spent loads of time trying to land a Rwanda deal and chasing immigrants who’ve been here years and are legal – i.e Windrush scandal. When it comes to it Ministers and senior civil servants only have so much bandwidth. You have to decide how best to use your time for maximum benefit. If you put all your eggs in one basket for the benefit of positive Daily Mail ‘headlines’ you should take responsibility when it doesn’t come off.
Not sure on the percentage Indian MM. Can’t find a link showing large numbers from there and surprised if true as the media would make much of that given PM’s heritage. Increase in Albanian latter half 22 with 11k for the year as we know. The Albanian element should be solvable quickly. But large numbers Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian some way away from return agreements with the others.
c1000 boat arrivals in Jan 23. No Govt data yet beyond that. Obviously the weather biggest factor. April 22 had c1500 so that’ll be an interesting comparison in due course.
Backlog housed in hotels/camps all over the country not reducing rapidly any time soon by looks of it.
As regards the ‘Legals’ – yes we’ve always known many are transient/student which is why unclear Tories latched onto such an over-simplified target. Hung by own petard? Or is it the fact the overall presence doesn’t change much it’s just different individuals the issue?
Political will? yes one can argue pre-Brexit Tories probably liked to play the card but not that serious in truth, esp as immigration anti-inflationary on wages. Since though? May (Hostile environment etc), Bojo, Mad Liz, and now Sunak – all played the card much harder.
Q1 2023 figures for small boat crossings (available to download on Home Office website), nationalities:
Sri Lanka: 27
South Sudan: 13
My calculation is 1022 people are covered by return agreements and 2771 people (Middle East, African and Afghani) would have to go to Rwanda for Q1.
Yes that is interesting, and esp as media doesn’t seen to have latched onto the ‘India’ point you make given PM’s heritage.
One suspects Govt a little cautious here as would like some sort of trade deal with India, thus won’t offend/embarrass in the way might with Albania. But still that wouldn’t stop the Mail IMO.
So agree – intriguing and thanks for the info.
The total “small boats” for Q1 2023 from your figures seems to be around 4000. Are you quite sure that’s not an under-estimate ?
It’s time these sort of statistics were published by the government. Together with the ages and qualifications of these people. We shouldn’t be letting in “randoms” under any circumstances. It’s b*****y difficult to get into the country by the proper legal means. There must be some sort of tracking for illegals (yes, let’s call a spade a spade).
I’d also like to know the percentage of people arriving with valid identification documents.
There can be no public confidence if this sort of information is concealed.
I’m just winging it here (literally making this up on the hoof). But since any country has a finite capacity to accomodate unplanned immigration (by definition this is the case – you can’t plan for it), why not set an annual limit as the USA does for green cards. And then institute a points system to allocate places. That’s got to be at least as fair as the current non-system. And acknowledges the fact that any system is going to be unfair to someone. But it should not be systematically unfair to UK taxpayers.
Green card equivalent not a bad idea, Begs question – what’ve the Tories been doing for 13yrs?
As regards the data shared on boat arrivals etc – we can assume that having given itself a target much massaging will go on first before much is fully shared.
But Labour doesn’t want cap on immigration. That would require some sense from a leader who doesn’t know who woman is.
Matt, I think that is a clear-eyed, well-informed view of where we could end up in two or three years time. A useful counter to both liberal insouciance and immigration-controller pessimism. It can be done and the Government should spell this out as a road map to where it wants to get to, maybe even with a target – but the target should be for annual permanent residence numbers not the vagaries of (hard to count accurately) net migration. But you are also right about opportunity for Labour to steal these clothes.
And how exactly do you plan to ‘stop the boats’? Shell, ram, bomb them?
The plan is to detain all arrivals and then deport them either to their homeland where a return agreement is in place (India, Pakistan, Albania, Vietnam) or for people from other countries (Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Eritrea) to a safe third country like Rwanda who we pay to take them.
If you think that Rwanda is ‘safe’ I suspect that you are seriously misinformed!
Please let us know if you have a better solution. Just stating difficulties isn’t going to cut it much longer.
Proper investment in processing, decent quality holding centres, rapid national discussion on ID cards, and rapid renegotiation back into InterPol so we can coordinate action against traffickers. And UK contribution to helping in the Med if we want help with the Channel – how’s that for a start?
Too late for the clowns in charge mind, and their supporters who’ve been too fixated on ‘red meat’ Rwanda and ECHR debates.
Suspect eventually we will find out with a small number. Whether a large enough number to generate a significant deterrence before next GE I personally doubt but we’ll see.
Well, they left safe country, France.
They should had claimed asylum there.
‘Could’ have for sure, but chose not to and given we joyously left the Dublin Agreement we can’t insist.
Now we didn’t use the DA that much pre-Brexit, but we didn’t have the Boats issue. Someone obviously considered some less optimistic scenarios before pulling the plug didn’t they…didn’t they?
Yet another Brexit dividend? The clownishness seems to have no bounds.
That’s easy then. Why did nobody think of those moves before?
Rwanda flights were stopped by an (anonymous) ECHR judge. That has since been overruled by the UK Supreme Court. That judgement has been appealed and we are expecting the ruling any day now. Presumably if that is in HMG’s favour, the flights will begin.
The law also needs to be changed to stop all channel crossers from claiming asylum. Until then there is a lengthy process of claims and appeals for every immigrant. The bill went to the HoL last week.
Also there is the ongoing task of settling returns agreements with countries that people are coming from. India and Albania are two of the latest to be struck.
“Who could not be in favour of humanitarian visas for asylum-seekers who do not have to cross the Channel in a dinghy?”
Me for one. They do not have to flee France. It is a safe country and they can apply for asylum there.
I suspect the French may ‘turn nasty’ quite soon, which would be a ‘ blessing in disguise’, would it not?
They could, but they don’t have to. And many prefer us, in part because French have ID card system and less easy to disappear illegally. Now who’s been in Govt 13 yrs and not pondered how come the French have ID cards and we don’t?
Well they would if we changed the law to make it so.
In fact Article 31 of the UN Refugee Convention states that refugees cannot be penalised for entering the country illegally to claim asylum if they are “coming directly from a territory where their life or freedom was threatened” provided they “present themselves without delay to the authorities and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence”.
Seem clear enough doesn’t it? However in a piece of judicial invention LJ Browne-Wilkinson, giving the majority judgment in a HL case , interpreted the law “some element of choice is indeed open to refugees as to where they may properly claim asylum” and that “any merely short term stopover en route” to another country should not forfeit the individual’s right to claim refugee status elsewhere.as follows
Also in point of fact Blair attempted to introduce one and failed. And if Blair at the height of his powers could not achieve it who is going to try again
The big question really is as to why Britain has not employed the same intelligence services and special forces that were succesful in both Northern Ireland and against Islamic terrorists, to hunt down people smuggling racketeers?
Yes very curious that.
Alternatively I gather ex Mossad employees are out there and available for hire and devastatingly effective.
Would we have to give them British citizenship, though? I would have thought that a few SAS or SBS teams could get out there and break a few RIBs and ribs.
No chance, HMG just doesn’t have the ‘will/bottle,’ sadly.
Violence is always better than justice, you mea
I like your thinking there!
I wonder how hard it would be – if someone actually tried – to discover where inflatable boats are being made? It may no longer be true, but I read some time ago that all these boats are stored somewhere on the South Coast. (It was suggested this was in case any ‘rightful owner’ turned up, with a legal claim to them – but I suspect that was humour.) With such a wealth of material evidence at hand it should be possible to work out suppliers, and hence builders.
Lidl’s in Calais are doing a roaring trade in Lilos as we speak.
Indeed. You can just make the sale of a dinghy subject to a police licence. But why would they? They are making a fortune, reducing their asylum seeker camps, whilst also have us keep giving their Gendarmerie millions of Euros. Ker-ching!
We need to recognise we’re poorly positioned and to get the French to do alot more going to cost us alot more.
Now if 40%+ of our trade didn’t go through France having us by the ‘short & curlies’ and we had the Dublin agreement where we could ship them immediately back over the channel…
What a wonderful bit of strategic foresight we’ve shown.
As simple as, ‘lack of will’.
Certainly a valid question why not more concerted joint action against the traffickers? Remember though we voted for less integration in security intelligence and data sharing. And we stepped back from much help in the Med.
And we are hardly about to drop the SBS onto Pas De Calais sands if we want traffic to keep moving cross channel and the current TCA to not implode instantly.
Manoeuvred ourselves into quite a position of strength haven’t we.
I suppose because they operate in France, Belgium or the Netherlands. It would be a breach of sovereignty almost tantamount to an act of war if we sent special forces to operate in France.
We cannot solve the world’s problems by evacuating the Third World to the First. All that does is afflict the First World with the Third World problems refugees are trying to escape.
Blimey hadn’t thought of it like that. Thanks. Suggestions?
Let me ask you the same question: where are your suggestions ?
All I see is repeated difficulty stating about “now nothing can be done”.
See further up the stream – gave you 3-4 things we could/should be doing.
A very welcome contribution. A practical approach to who to let in – and who not – would force all sides to argue plainly about what they wanted. Currently one side wants to keep out everybody, and the other wants to keep letting in more without accepting any real limits. With the result that all proposed policies are fake, since no one believes they would be implemented or accepts responsibility for the consequences.
I agree – it’s a good article. I don’t agree with all of it, but it’s considerably better than most. Yours seems to me to be the key point. At the moment we seem to have one side of the debate that wants a de facto open door and another that wants none and they are basically just chasing each other with the result that a lot of the public has just become disillusioned. I guess that online is about the worst forum for this debate.
With refugees specifically the article I think touches on the core issue – ‘the people for whom the 1951 Refugee Convention was originally designed.’ At the moment it is hard to avoid the sense that we are a very long way now from the original design and there is nothing malign about saying as much.
From there, as the article says, a very hard line on irregular entry – likely involving the near-complete removal of an appeal process would work.
I don’t think the ‘other’ wants to keep letting in without limits. They’ll be a bonkers few hold this view no doubt, but tiny minority. Most IMO want proper controls/returns but done in a way commensurate with our values – humane, moderate, tolerant but competent and effective. And alot less of the dehumanising rhetoric rubbish. Not necessary. Just be competent.
I’d like to believe you, but I see little sign of that.
Item: The immense fuss there is every time someone proposes to check if people claiming entry as minors are actually under 18.
Item: The complete ignoring of the fact that there are tens of millions of people in the world whose life would be greatly improved if they became resident in the UK – and the total lack of mention of any controls and returns that 1) would be acceptable, 2) could actually work. If all you talk about is to make it easier and safer for people to get in, the ‘without limits’ part sort of follows.
Understand the points RF. Media will tend to fixate on disproportionate stuff, esp the Right Wing media – e.g: focus on a supposed Woke narrative with a lawyer defending a case etc. I don’t think we can take that as evidence of a significant demographic supporting open borders. It’s click bait journalism.
You are surely right – but in a way I do not think it is relevant. If you agitate for receiving more refugees, removing obstacles, making sure people can get in and the border crossing is safe, fulfilling our humanitarian obligations and being good and nice – *without* considering that there might be an upper limit and how it might be enforced – you are de facto supporting open borders. Not, maybe, because you want it, but because all your actions push in that direction and you choose not to consider the consequences.
Yes but I don’t hear v many saying that when actually pressed – i.e Open Borders . It’s a deliberate attempt to polarise IMO. There would be differences in what people might consider an upper limit but I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone argue completely open borders
That said it is the case Starmer needs to be mindful how things get twisted and get on the front-foot here. British people are moderate and reasonable but expect a limit too.
“Refugee organisations surely do not think that anyone who applies should get one.”
I think that this is exactly what they wish to happen.
You can stop reading here:
“So UK Governments, of all colours, as well as those of other rich countries, spend millions of pounds each year doing their hardest to stop people coming by normal and irregular routes.”
What a load of BS!
Just thinking….how many refugees would fit into all the royal palaces? Why doesn’t Charles offer Balmoral to the Albanians?
Don’t bother with Rwanda send them to SCAPA FLOW immediately. They’ll love it.
Saw this too late. In another post I suggested Balmoral. Isn’t Scapa Flow sort of watery?
Very, 235 square kilometres of the stuff and quite deep too.
Room enough for about 10 million on suitably designed
‘Prison Hulks’ or ‘Process Centres’ if you prefer.
Also magnificent employment opportunities for your locals who would service the ‘facility’, which I would call the ‘Magwitch Reprocessing Centre’or MRC for short.
Could I suggest Rab.C.Nesbitt as Chief Interpreter.
We could always dredge up the Hochseeflotte and use them as floating accommodation. It’d be radiation free and they could earn a living making compass needles.
Such a three-tier safe and legal system would not stop all irregular entry
Correct. In fact, it would not stop any irregular entry. Having (to use your examples) traumatised gay Muslims or corrupt African politicians walking our streets without having to look over their shoulder would do nothing to stop illegal economic migration. Even if those people were desirable in themselves.
How should recipients of humanitarian visas be chosen? Refugee organisations surely do not think that anyone who applies should get one.
The organisations themselves don’t think so or publicly say so, but if you question most bien pensant liberal left-wingers in the UK, they would probably struggle to explain why not.
Until there is a clear disincentive to attempt illegal entry it won’t end.
Such a three-tier safe and legal system would not stop all irregular entry, but it would justify taking a hard line against it
And there’s the rub.
If some are given entry status and some are denied, the ones without visas will be on the boats, coming over. So what is this ‘hard line’?
The biggest joke that back fired on us by the Elitists. Over migration by any species into a Society that is homogeneous tends to decimate the dominant and productive group. They come not to integrate but gradually change the productive to what they left.
For power, greed,and control of their present Society they, the politicians and corporations bring in political and cultural opposing groups under the pretense of asylum.
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