Ahead of the 8 June UK general election, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has outlined six priorities that it is asking whoever forms the next UK government to take forward for asylum and refugee reform.
Increase the number of refugees resettled in the UK to at least 10,000 a year. This represents a meaningful but realistic increase over the current commitment; and UNHCR believes that the UK can and is capable of doing more. We urge the government to consolidate its current resettlement programmes (Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme for Syrians, Vulnerable Children’s Resettlement Scheme, Gateway Protection Programme and Mandate Refugee Programme) into a single programme that is flexible and addresses evolving resettlement priorities globally.
Allow more families divided by conflict to reunite and live together. Legal avenues for refugees seeking protection such as family reunification and community sponsorship save lives and help tackle human trafficking and smuggling. UNHCR calls on the next government to continue expanding the community sponsorship programme by giving it a quota separate from Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme for Syrians and opening the programme up to other nationalities, not just Syrians.
Reduce the use of detention and support alternatives. The UK detains strikingly high numbers of asylum-seekers and is one of only a handful of countries without a time limit on immigration detention. We urge the incoming government to correct this anomaly by introducing a time limit and significantly reducing its reliance on detention.
Maintaining equal treatment for all refugees, regardless of how they arrive in the UK. The government is called on to maintain full respect for asylum standards and not introduce mechanisms designed to restrict access to protection.
Helping refugees in the UK to better integrate into their new communities. The focus should be on addressing areas critical to refugee integration, including English language, education, employment, social support and family reunification, with consideration given to the engagement of both public bodies and the private sector. The UK should ensure that integration prospects for all refugees, whether they arrived in the UK through a resettlement programme or were recognized as refugees after making asylum claims in the UK, are equal. Efforts should be made to support integration as early as possible, including during the asylum process. Ultimately, this will allow refugees to give back to the society that has so warmly welcomed them to the fullest extent possible.
Maintain the UK’s commitment to spend 0.7% of national income on overseas aid. We encourage the UK to maintain its commitment to spending 0.7% of gross national income on overseas aid. UNHCR stresses the need for continued international support, meeting the needs of refugees and communities hosting them globally. Timely and adequate support for programmes providing refugees with protection, shelter, education and livelihoods should remain priorities built into the overseas aid strategy of the new UK government. UNHCR urges the next government to play a leading role in easing pressure on countries hosting the majority of the world’s refugees, enhancing refugee self-reliance, expanding access to third-country solutions and supporting conditions in countries of origin for return in safety and dignity.
Churches Together in Britain and Ireland has a dedicated website covering the response of the churches to the 2017 General Election taking place on 8 June 2017. The website allows visitors to register and search for hustings (public meetings where people can listen to and ask questions of the candidates). It also has details of resources available for churches and individual Christians, such as a guide to organising a hustings.