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Home Secretary says her ‘New Plan for Immigration’ will see the most comprehensive overhaul of the asylum system in years


Priti Patel to unveil new plan this week, says asylum system should be based on need

Date of Publication:
22 March 2021

Home Secretary says her ‘New Plan for Immigration’ will see the most comprehensive overhaul of the asylum system in years

22 March 2021

Following a newsworthy week for immigration law last week, more can be expected this week as the Home Secretary is set to announce a radical 'New Plan for Immigration'.

Priti PatelPriti Patel says the new plan represents the most comprehensive overhaul of asylum and borders in decades.

The Home Secretary chose to post initial details of the plan on The Sun newspaper's website on Saturday. Sky News also had some further details on Sunday.

Patel wrote in The Sun: "At the heart of our New Plan for Immigration is a simple principle: Access to the UK's asylum system should be based on need, not on the ability to pay people smugglers."

According to Sky News, the Home Office said priority will be given to refugees, including children, in regions of conflict and instability, rather than those who come to the UK via safe European countries.

Sky News quoted the Home Secretary as saying: "Our New Plan For Immigration will make big changes, building a new system that is fair but firm. We will continue to encourage asylum via safe and legal routes whilst at the same time toughening our stance towards illegal entry and the criminals that endanger life by enabling it. Not all of these reforms will happen overnight, so in order to save lives we will need to stick to the course and see this New Plan For Immigration through."

Sky News noted that under the plan, refugees fleeing war or persecution who come through the "safe and legal resettlement route" will be given indefinite leave to remain immediately, rather than applying after five years as happens currently.

There were no immediate details given of routes or numbers, though in earlier news about the plan, a Home Office source told The Sun last week that it would be based on need and the Home Office would not commit to a certain number of asylum seekers coming each year.

In her article in The Sun on Saturday, Patel gave brief details of some of the changes that can be expected to the asylum system.

The Home Secretary wrote: "Migrants facing removal action will be required to raise all asylum and human rights claims in one go. This will mean all issues can be considered together. New powers will mean decision-makers, including judges, should give minimal weight to evidence submitted after the 'one-stop' process, unless there is good reason.

"We will also raise the standard of proof that those claiming asylum must provide. And we will set out in law a clear, comprehensive test against which all asylum claims can be assessed. This means that no one involved in the asylum system can be in any doubt what a successful asylum claim needs to demonstrate."

The Home Office added in a press release on Saturday that the new immigration plan would also tackle an "alarming rise of abuse within modern slavery system." The press release stated: "Child rapists, people who pose a threat to our national security, serious criminals and failed asylum seekers will find it harder to take advantage of modern slavery safeguards under changes to be announced this week."

The charity ECPAT UK, which works to protect children from trafficking, was among those expressing alarm at the Home Office's statement and the reporting around it.

The charity said: "We strongly object to reporting that seems to conflate people seeking asylum with offenders. As a child protection charity, we are alarmed at the suggestion that safeguards to protect victims include protections for child rapists and those who threaten national security: sexual and terrorism offences are explicitly excluded from any modern slavery defence. As far as we are aware, there is no data on any misuse of the defence, which provides a valuable, if too limited, safety net for children who have been trafficked. Victims need more protection, support and care, not increased hostility. "

Legal voices on social media also expressed concern, including at attacks on lawyers in media reports about the Home Office's announcement. An article in The Sun spoke of "dinghy-chasing" lawyers under a headline about "child rapists and terrorists" exploiting modern slavery safeguards. The well-known Secret Barrister accused the Home Office of "dishonest #FakeLaw propaganda which is wholly contradicted by the facts" and added: "The claim that there's a rise in abuses of Modern Slavery system is baseless, and the rise in referrals is not because of lawyers."

The Secret Barrister said Patel was "again attacking lawyers doing their jobs", while Sean Jones QC said on Twitter: "Lawyers fearlessly advocating for their clients within the law and the strictures of the code of conduct is a feature not a bug." Barrister Abimbola Johnson said on Twitter that the press release was a "[c]lassic example of the [Home Office] using a misleading headline [to] undermine the legal profession."

Colin Yeo said the reporting in an earlier article in The Times about another part of the plan to make lawyers pay for 'hopeless' deportation appeals was "[p]roperly awful" as it had misleadingly juxtaposed entirely unrelated Home Office delays in initial asylum decision-making with Home Office costs lawyers haggling in judicial review claims.

Last week, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said in a statement on Twitter that it was very concerned by earlier media reports that the UK was considering offshoring the reception and processing of asylum seekers and warned it "would gradually undermine the international system protecting millions of refugees."