UN refugee agency criticizes planned immigration law in Great Britain

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has criticized a British bill on the largest sweeping overhaul of asylum rules in decades. On Thursday, the organization said that this undermines “the international norms in place to protect refugees.” The planned legal distinction between legal and illegal immigrants “will punish most asylum seekers with unjustified penalties.”

London introduced a bill on immigration in March. Home Secretary Priti Patel stressed at the time that the proposed law was “based on a genuine need for asylum and not on the ability to pay smugglers”. “When people enter illegally, they do not have the same rights as those who enter legally and it will be difficult for them to survive,” Patel said.

UNHCR criticized that the bill creates an “inferior status” for most refugees. Russella Bagliucci-Lor, UNHCR representative in Great Britain, said undocumented travelers were being stigmatized as “unworthy and undesirable”.

In the UK, the growing number of immigrants from France is fueling debate over asylum rules. More than 15,000 people have already crossed the English Channel on small boats this year – about 7,000 more than in the whole of 2020. This issue also causes a dispute between London and Paris.

UK law is based on the idea that people must apply for asylum in the “first safe country” they arrive in. “However, this principle is not found in the 1951 Refugee Convention, nor is it enshrined in international law,” UNHCR stated. Pagliucci Laure added that the definition of the term “refugee” in the convention does not depend on the route, the choice of country of asylum or the time of application.

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Immigration played an important role in the Brexit debate. Supporters of Brexit have declared, among other things, that asylum policy will once again be in the hands of London.

However, the EU Asylum Regulation follows a similar principle to the new regulation now planned. The so-called Dublin Regulations basically state that the EU state is responsible for the asylum procedure in which refugees first enter the EU. Great Britain can no longer refer to this.

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