Catholic charity says the asylum system should welcome, protect, promote and integrate people seeking sanctuary
New report from Jesuit Refugee Service UK calls for an asylum system rooted in a sense of shared humanity
21 April 2021
The Jesuit Refugee Service UK (JRS UK) on Saturday published a new report calling for a reformed asylum system that welcomes, protects, promotes and integrates those seeking sanctuary as neighbours.
You can download the 32-page report here.
JRS is an international Catholic organisation and the report draws on the principles of Catholic Social Teaching (CST) to envisage an asylum system based around common humanity and human need that transcends national boundaries and protects and nurtures human dignity.
JRS UK says in its report: "The asylum determination process is too often directed against the individuals it is theoretically supposed to protect. It is striking that refugees and asylum seekers do not feel the asylum process and its institutions have a clear moral purpose that can be recognised as a social good."
JRS UK argues that a reformed, human-centred asylum system should aim to uphold the four following principles:
• Enshrine protection and transparency at the heart of the asylum determination process, in a culture where asylum claimants are seen and heard.
• Provide borders which are open to those in need of protection.
• Support asylum claimants and refugees to live in dignity, and participate fully in wider social, economic, and political life.
• Foster a society that welcomes, protects, promotes, and integrates those seeking sanctuary as our neighbours.
The report finds that the current asylum system fails to respect human dignity. It notes: "Overall, refugees and asylum seekers at JRS UK spoke of an asylum system in which they are not seen, heard, or recognised. Decision-making started from a position of disbelief and was not grounded in a desire to protect refugees. People described feeling powerless before a system that did not communicate with them. The refusal to acknowledge people as self-determining agents was dehumanising. People explained that often it was the indignity of the process, as much as the final outcome, that leads to a long-term sense of injustice."
Many of the refugees and asylum seekers that JRS UK spoke to felt that the asylum system intentionally generated hopelessness, and many aspects of the system were seen as serving no legitimate purpose, but instead were seen to be intentionally cruel, combining futility with hostility.
The report stresses the importance of solidarity for reforming the asylum system.
JRS UK explained: "Our research found that refugees and asylum seekers value solidarity, create strong networks of refugee-to-refugee support, and often rely primarily on these. Speaking about detention, one refugee explained 'Really, that's the only thing you have...the people around you. That's it.' Refugees and asylum seekers do not wish to be solely passive recipients of care or the solidarity of others, but agents of solidarity, as part of wider networks of solidarity. This suggests we need a society that recognises refugees as persons within and helping to shape its communal life, and as 'agents in their own redemption'."
The report concludes: "Our analysis has helped to draw out core principles and aims that would shape an asylum system that does respond to sanctuary seekers as human persons: borders open to those in need; a purpose of protection at the heart of the asylum determination process, and increased justice and transparency within that process; a culture and context in which asylum claimants are seen and heard, and can engage meaningfully with their case; an asylum system that supports asylum claimants to meet their needs, live in dignity, and fully participate in wider social, economic, and political life; a society that welcomes, protects, promotes, and integrates those seeking sanctuary as our neighbours; and a society that recognises refugees and asylum seekers as participants."
Referencing the Government's recent announcement of a 'new plan for immigration', Sarah Teather, the director of JRS UK, said we need an asylum system rooted in a sense of shared humanity instead of a "barbaric rehash of the old culture of hostility".