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  • Lale Hanalp

Refugees risk their lives only to be detained as criminals as they reach UK borders

Whilst many dream of peace and equality, our home secretary, Suella Braverman dreams of flying refugees to Rwanda. Human beings risk their lives for safety as our government looks the other way, viewing a child, a mother, a father as a mere statistic.

As more than 100 lone child immigrants go missing after disappearing from UK hotels over 14 months, we are told asylum seekers will be cared for. Children as young as 11 risk exploitation under the supposed protection of our government. A child not considered a human being worthy of basic human rights is exposed to trafficking due to the incompetence of our Home Office.

So, what exactly happened from the time the children migrated to the time of their disappearance, and who is to blame? The children were supposed to be placed in suitable accommodation, yet after local councils claimed there was no space, their alternative was approved hotels. This had not gone unmonitored, as the charity ECPAT UK said the number of child disappearances was "shocking." Whilst charities viewed this event similarly as "shocking," the Home Office said it was seeing an "unprecedented rise in dangerous Channel crossings," yet not making any physical efforts.

Another consequence of Suella’s blissful ignorance is the outbreak of diphtheria, a highly contagious and potentially serious viral infection. The advice of persons wrongfully detained in the centre was allegedly rejected by the Home Secretary. She declined to provide more hotel spaces or allow immigration bail and blocked officials from taking action. Not only are migrants unsafe from illnesses but also from harm. In January, a short-term holding facility opened where migrants are meant to be held for 24 hours whilst undergoing checks. However, whilst speaking to a family from Afghanistan, David Neal (the independent chief inspector of borders and immigration) discovered they had been living in a marquee for 32 days. The circumstances at the location rendered him speechless. When characterising immigration situations, the phrases "shocked" and "speechless" are certainly not used lightly.

It is a prevalent misperception that migrants wish to reside in Europe, contrary to the conservative party's stance. In reality, over 35% of people relocate to neighbouring nations. Nearly 90% stay within their home districts, therefore those who migrate further are a relatively tiny percentage.

Despite deplorable conditions and troubling circumstances, the Nationality and Borders Bill has now gone through the parliamentary process and is now law. What exactly does this mean? The measure establishes a two-tiered refugee status in which the vast majority of immigrants face an unjust set of rights under UK law based on the bill.

Only those refugees who fulfil certain additional criteria will be called Group 1 refugees and will be entitled to the rights provided under the Refugee Convention. These conditions are that they: "have arrived directly to the United Kingdom from a nation or territory where their life or freedom was threatened," "have presented themselves without delay to the authorities," and "where a refugee has entered or is present in the United Kingdom unlawfully, the additional requirement is that they can show good cause for their unlawful entry or presence." "Group two" would be denied: social benefits unless destitute; family reunion. As this bill is being implemented, it is not hard to imagine the Government intending to use the powers created by the Bill to “restrict” the rights of the family members of Group 2 refugees to enter or remain in the UK.

We shall live in a world where children are refused free school lunches because it is a benefit based on the benefits received by the parent. Furthermore, children born in the UK to Group 2 refugees will often have no entitlement to British nationality for ten years, or until their parents are given settlement. Clause 15 of the law has authority to deem asylum requests "inadmissible" if someone has travelled through or has a link to a third country, allowing the government to deport those persons to any "safe" nation (by their assessment) that would accept them.

The bill breaks international law. In other words, the bill will criminalise the very act of entering the UK to claim asylum. This has two consequences. First, it will likely put the UK in breach of the Refugee Convention's requirements. These are to not penalise refugees on account of their illegal entry or presence if they present themselves without delay and show good cause for their illegal entry or presence. Secondly, on a practical level, it will push asylum seekers further into the hands of smugglers who promise entry to the UK without detection. UNHCR believes this bill will undermine, not promote, the government’s stated goal of improving protection for those at risk of persecution.

Contrary to the conservative party's belief it is a common misconception that refugees want to live in the UK or even to Europe. In fact, the majority living in Africa, the Middle East and Asia move to countries neighbouring their own which is about 35%. Close to 90% are within their own regions so those who actually travel further are actually a very small number.

In terms of the future of the bill, as long as the conservative party stays in power, the position and clauses of the bill do not seem to be changing anytime soon. The attention and scrutiny from large organisations will hopefully bring amendments and humanity to the Home Office’s decisions. Due to the government's incompetency, human beings have lost their lives as Suella Braverman declined to provide more hotel spaces or allow immigration bail and blocked officials from taking action. 700 people have been bussed to Manston from a nearby immigration centre after a man threw gasoline bombs at the site. Conditions should be guarded and safe in order to stop tragic events such as the bombing. Natalie Elphicke, the Conservative MP for Dover, said people at the Border Force immigration centre were being "looked after" following the "dreadful" attack. In reality, residents should have been looked after prior to the incident, and immigrants face discrimination and are vulnerable.

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