The UK is only the 19th most favoured asylum destination, in part because of a decision in 2011 to scrap rules which had allowed claimants to go to embassies in their own countries instead of applying here. Despite this, Britain is still grappling with a backlog of 143,000 applications, while 44,000 refugees have arrived via the Channel.
Under Winston Churchill, Britain was one of the founding signatories to the UN’s 1951 Refugee Convention, going on to sign a 1967 protocol which made the scope for eligibility larger.
But speaking last night Prof David Coleman, emeritus professor on demography at Oxford University, said: “Given global shifts and the prospect of asylum claimants from almost every country outside Europe, some very serious thought must go into whether the present system can continue – and whether the unqualified extension of asylum to the whole world, as promised by the 1951 Refugee convention protocol, is still viable.”
His comments came as Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick said migration was likely to be a problem for “many years to come”, adding that the current numbers coming into the country were “unsustainable”.
Mr Jenrick said he and Home Secretary Suella Braverman were looking at new legislation, including tightening the rules on student visas.
He said: “We have to recreate our immigration system so it’s fit for purpose – that means creating a system where deterrence is through the whole thing.” Under the UN convention, a refugee is defined as someone who has a “well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”.
Despite being on an accession path to full EU membership, and being described by Britain as a “safe and prosperous country”, more than 11,000 Albanians landed in small boats between May and September this year.
Many Albanian women have been trafficked and official figures now show 86 percent of applications by women are accepted.
Prof Coleman, who co-founded the Migration Watch think tank, added: “More than 70 percent of asylum applications were successful last year – that number used to be a lot smaller, and we must ask ourselves whether that should be made smaller again with harder criteria.
“There are other countries which are considered reasonable in their general policies who have much harsher criteria.”
Denmark has a reputation for being at the vanguard of reform. This includes considering processing asylum seekers in Rwanda and pursuing reforms to the criteria contained in the 1951 Refugee Convention.
But the call to restrict the bandwidth of asylum seekers was rejected by the Refugee Council last night. CEO, Enver Solomon, said: “Just after the horrors of World War Two, the UK was one of the founding signatories of the Refugee Convention making a commitment to protect people fleeing war and persecution.
“Since then it has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, women and children. These people have gone on to make huge contributions to our communities.
“To walk away from the Convention would be completely out of step with British values.”
- A fifth of lone Albanian child migrants have gone missing, a council has revealed. Kent County Council took in 197 unaccompanied child migrants from Albania between January 1 and October 31 of this year and, of those, 39 are missing.