UK Home Department slammed for insensitive policies on refugees and asylum seekers

UK home secretary Priti Patel has received widespread criticism for insensitive policies towards asylum seekers from Afghanistan, the handling of the refugee crisis in the English Channel, and controversial plans to open a new detention center for immigrant women

August 17, 2021 by Peoples Dispatch
Refugee policy-UK
UK home secretary Priti Patel. (Photo: via MorningStar)

Refugee rights groups and other progressive sections have slammed UK home secretary Priti Patel and her office for pursuing an insensitive policies on refugees and asylum seekers. Her department has been accused of obstructing the safe exit of people from Afghanistan to the UK following the takeover of the country by the Taliban. Refugee rights groups have also criticized the home office for the closure of safe routes in the English Channel used by asylum seekers moving into Britain from France, which has resulted in the tragic death of many refugees at sea. At the same time, activist group Women for Refugee Women has intensified protests against the home office’s plan to open a new detention center for ‘illegal’ women immigrants by October. 

According to a MorningStar report, the home office has been reluctant to evacuate people from Afghanistan and provide them asylum, including those who were part of the UK’s mission in Afghanistan. As Taliban forces seize control of the country, the lives of many Afghan and non-Afghan people, including women who assisted the UK mission, are in danger. Even though the home office has refuted such allegations and stated that evacuation is underway, many including Amnesty International UK and Labour MP Zarah Sultana have raised concerns regarding the safety of the people and the intentions of the home office. 

On Sunday, August 15, Sultana tweeted, “it’s reported the Home Office doesn’t want to give asylum to Afghans fleeing violence because of the message it will send to other refugees.” 

“Priti Patel’s sheer cruelty & inhumanity is astonishing, especially given Britain’s key role in creating this crisis,” she added.

Following the death of a refugee in the English Channel last week after a boat carrying around 40 people capsized near the coast of Dunkirk, activist groups have demanded that the UK authorities ensure safe passage for the refugees and asylum seekers trying to enter the country through this route. Earlier, calls by anti-immigrant and far-right groups had led the UK government to vow to make the English Channel route ‘unviable’ for refugees and increase patrols to intercept refugee boats.

After the refugee’s death last week, activist group Safe Passage stated that “this tragic death could have been prevented, if only the Government opened safe alternative routes for refugees. Nobody should be forced to risk their life to reach safety. Right now, however, people fleeing war and persecution are left with no choice but to risk the dangerous journey across the Channel in a dinghy to reach sanctuary in our communities.”

While tightening surveillance in the English Channel to prevent the entry of refugees, the UK home office is also planning to open a new immigration detention center for ‘illegal’ women immigrants – Hassockfield in County Durham – by October this year. Various groups including Women for Refugee Women, Abolish Detention, Durham People’s Assembly Against Austerity, No To Hassockfield Campaign, and others, have intensified protests against the plan to open the detention center. Women for Refugee Women called on the home office “to halt its reckless approach to detaining women, by cancelling its plans for Hassockfield immediately. Instead, it should invest in programs that support women to resolve their immigration cases, and rebuild their lives, in the community.”

The group also claimed that “the Home Office has contracted a private company to run Hassockfield that has recently had allegations of sexual harassment made about its staff.” 

The UK government is also currently trying to enact the Nationality and Borders Bill to curb the illegal flow of asylum seekers and refugees into the country.