By Almas Farzi (‘Navid’)

Asylum Welcome’s Services Director responds to a new statement from Robert Jenrick, The Minister of State for Immigration.

For nearly two years at Asylum Welcome and across the country, we have been fighting the injustice of the Nationality and Borders legislation created by the Home Office under Priti Patel and enacted on 28 April last year, with much of it coming into force on 28 June 2022.

The Nationality and Borders Act (dubbed the Anti-Refugee Act by campaigners) created a cruel two-tier system for refugees, granting different levels of protection based on their means of arriving in the UK. The system was designed to punish those who arrived irregularly (regardless of the strength of their claim): offering them only temporary status, taking away their right to family reunion, and setting up the prospect of years of uncertainty and fear. Almost all refugees arriving since 28 June would likely have fallen into this category (“Group 2”) due to their mode of arrival, about which they had no choice as there were no safe or legal routes available for them.

The government yesterday announced that it would “pause the differentiation policy in the next package of immigration rules changes in July 2023” and “that those individuals who are successful in their asylum application, including those who are granted humanitarian protection, will receive the same conditions”. They also announced that those “who have already received a “Group 2” or humanitarian protection decision under post-28 June 2022 policies” will be upgraded to “Group 1”, granting them improved rights, including a faster route to settlement, and making them eligible for family reunion.

The government didn’t shout about this announcement but very quietly released a statement: most likely because they are too embarrassed to admit that as well as being cruel and unjust this plan was completely unworkable and impractical, contributing to the massive “asylum backlog”.

At an incredibly bleak time for refugees and those supporting them, we need to recognise and celebrate this victory. This is tremendous news for all those who would have been affected, as they will no longer face years of uncertainty and unsettled status.

Since the Nationality and Borders Bill passed last year, we have endured escalating cruelty: including a failed attempt to deport people to Rwanda last June, and now the Illegal Migration Bill which is still going through parliament and looms ahead for anyone arriving since March of this year.

The “two-tier system” of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 is effectively ended by yesterday’s announcement – but the fight continues as the new Bill – designed to deny access to the UK asylum system to those who arrive irregularly – continues its passage through parliament. Now, more than ever is the time to come together and stand up for the rights of refugees.

Asylum Welcome will continue to campaign against the cruelty that is being injected into the UK’s immigration law and practices.

It is crucial that all refugee and human rights organisations should form a united front against the government’s stance, to demand that people seeking asylum and protection are treated with respect and dignity.