Our letter to local MP, Rosie Duffield

Dear Rosie Duffield,

Kent Refugee Help is a small charity helping refugee and migrants in prison.

We are writing to you about the government’s New Plan for Immigration.

We have responded to the Consultation which ended on 6 May. https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/new-plan-for-immigration

This is now incorporated in the Nationality and Borders Bill which is progressing through Parliament now. Priti Patel the Home Secretary claims she is fixing a “Broken asylum system.”

This was an opportunity for her to make definitive changes which would radically improve the support systems, ensure that claims are processed fairly and within an acceptable time frame; end immigration detention and the placement of vulnerable asylum seekers in military sites like Napier and Penally Barracks.

Instead, her plans will deny the right to claim asylum to those who have entered the UK by “clandestine” routes; there are no safe legal routes for people who need to flee persecution and claim asylum which is their right under the Refugee Convention.

We should extend a welcome to all such vulnerable and traumatised people but the emphasis is on deportation and destitution as a means in which they can be made to leave the UK. The Government’s Temporary Protection Status for people with “inadmissible asylum claims “- those who passed through other countries, will not include automatic rights to settle or recourse to public funds. Rights to family reunion will be restricted. They also want to drastically reduce support for refused asylum seekers, including children which will increase the huge numbers of vulnerable people who are rough sleepers. Primary legislation for this already exists but was never implemented as local authorities right fully refused to collaborate with returns. It will impact negatively on social services and health care and has huge implications for Covid safety.

We also reject proposals to process asylum claims in off-shore processing centres. Asylum seeker should live here in the community and be included in our society. All asylum claims should be processed in the UK so they can be subjected to a full and transparent system of accountability.

The restrictions to bail rights and proposals to fast-track all claims are equally concerning, making it even harder to challenge detention and deportation. We are also very worried about changes to the Modern Slavery Act the 2015 legislation regarding trafficked people and the introduction of a New Reasonable Grounds Test and Credibility. This will demand a higher threshold for evidence from people who are traumatised, confused and may not even realise they have been trafficked. We strongly believe that any modern slavery and trafficking should be excluded from any fast- track asylum process proposed.

In conjunction with this we reject proposals to increase the maximum sentence for people entering the UK “illegally” and for the separate offence of “facilitating” which will now mean a maximum sentence of 14 years, the current sentence is just over 3 years. People are already being criminalised for crossing borders to seek sanctuary and save lives. Now the process is being stepped up to appear tough and appeal to bigotry and racism. We have come across refugees in prison who have been convicted of trafficking for crossing the channel with others in small boats. They have reported confusion and misunderstanding of the criminal justice system due to language barriers and the shock and trauma they have experienced. They may have been coerced and threatened by traffickers themselves. Such cases demand further investigation.

To conflate claiming asylum with illegality is irresponsible and dangerous. It has created divisions that have made asylum seekers a target for the far right. The NGO Freedom from Torture report that last August the Fascist group Britain First stalked asylum seekers in hotels, knocking on doors and pressurising them to answer questions. In September fascist groups visited Dover and a Neo Nazi teenage group planned a major attack on asylum seekers there. We know that subsequently asylum seekers were harassed and attacked at Napier and Penally Barracks. Priti Patel’s attack on asylum seekers has extended to their legal representatives, “lefty lawyers” and supporters, “Do gooders” resulting in a serious assault on a legal advisor in London. Freedom from Torture state, “The Home Secretary’s dangerous rhetoric is seen in patterns of abusive behaviour by states around the world. It is something that the asylum seekers we work with know all too well.” These cruel and vicious measures affect the safety of everyone.

We ask you to join with us and many other progressive individuals and groups in standing up for refugees and migrants in the UK. Please raise your voice and vote against these measures in Parliament. We are stronger together. No human being is illegal!

In solidarity

Kent Refugee Help

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