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06 June 2023

Prime Minister’s barge announcement – more distraction from a broken asylum system

2 mins

Rishi Sunak announced yesterday that two further barges have been procured for accommodating 1,000 asylum seekers, in a purported attempt to ‘stop the boats’ crossing the Channel.

Amy O’Shea of our Immigration, Asylum and Nationality team comments:

Sunak’s announcement is yet another in a long line of performative policies fuelling anti-migrant rhetoric without addressing the real problems in our broken asylum system. 

Asylum seekers are facing unjustifiably long and unexplained delays in their cases being decided. In our experience, many wait at least two years and some more than three years for a decision on their asylum claims. During this time, asylum seekers live with prolonged uncertainty, anxiety and limbo, not knowing whether they will be forcibly returned to the country from which they’ve fled persecution or another third country or whether they will be able to rebuild their lives in the UK. Rather than treating this vulnerable cohort with dignity and providing a place of refuge during this long, difficult wait, the government has instead chosen to create a system of inadequate and inhumane living conditions for asylum seekers. 

Such conditions are sadly not new: from accommodating individuals in large shared barracks in the middle of the Covid-19 pandemic to leaving asylum-seeking children alone in hotels from where they have gone missing. However, the suggestion of accommodating asylum seekers on barges marks a new low, and a more transparent attempt to punish asylum seekers through appalling living conditions. Housing asylum seekers in their hundreds on a boat without proper facilities and with just £9 a week in financial support will leave vulnerable and traumatised individuals in terrible conditions, isolated from the local community and without any control over their lives. It is a policy akin to detention rather than accommodation.

Ultimately, these policies will do nothing to create genuinely safe and legal routes for asylum seekers or to improve the processing of asylum cases. The Home Office has no proposal to deal with the huge backlog they have allowed to build in the system. Rather they seek to focus attention and blame on the individuals who have sought asylum in the UK.  

For more information about our Immigration, Asylum and Nationality team and the services we offer to individuals, visit our web page here.

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