New changes to UK refugee claims mean
thousands of asylum seekers could be
forced to travel to Liverpool.
Applicants will no longer be able to continue their asylum requests via post, instead being required to appear in person.
The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has reportedly made these changes without consulting major refugee organisation the Immigration Law Practitioners Association (ILPA), who fear the changes may be contrary to the Human Rights Act.
The changes now require all who made initial applications before March 5th 2007 must attend the Liverpool Further Submissions Unit in Walter Street to update their case.
All new applications must be made at the Asylum Screening Unit in Croydon.
Nigel Simons, a volunteer at the Refugee Council in Birmingham, said: “The people that are being asked to report are those that have no support whatsoever because they have no current asylum claim.”
Under Section 4 of the Immigration and Asylum Act 1999 a refugee must have an asylum request being processed before they can receive basic housing and food stamps.
Mr Simons said: “Unless they have a fresh claim pending they cannot get this Section 4 support, basically even though they are destitute and street homeless they are expected to take these representations to Liverpool. Unless they can do that they are disqualified from receiving any form of UKBA support so it has the most profound and catastrophic effect on their lives because it’s condemning them to perpetual destitution. It’s worse than we treat animals.
“It’s ethically repugnant and there seems to be no doubt at all that the morality of it comes from not that who governs a humane society but the morality of it comes from somebody wanting to use it as a political issue. They are obviously pre-empting anything by making sure any last ounce of humanity is squeezed out of their policies so no one can ever accuse them of being soft.”
The altered rules also state “that having insufficient funds… is not an acceptable reason for a person not being able to make a claim in person”.
In a letter to the UKBA’s Head of Immigration, Alasdair Mackenzie, Acting Chair of the ILPA, questioned the legality of this if there will not be resources available for those travelling, feeling it may breach human rights.
He felt that, taking previous cases under the Human Rights Act into account, should someone be denied asylum under these circumstances it would infringe their right to a private and family life.
Mr Simons says there are thoughts among various agencies about trying to overturn the changes via a judicial review, but with the prospect of appeals from the UKBA he fears little will be changed quickly.
He said: “There’s not much we can do, we are obviously looking to see if we can assist in any way. At the moment we are taking legal advice on our best course of action to try and help.”
By Daniel Masters & Adam Sheil
Liverpool will handle existing applications; YouTube: Al Jazeera reports on failed asylum seekers' fears
Hugh O'Connell reports