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Last traces of Nationality and Borders Act 2022 erased with abandonment of “differentiated status” for refugees


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Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick today announced that the government was dropping its “differentiated status” approach to refugees, introduced less than one year ago as the centrepiece of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022. The policy was to put refugees who arrived without prior permission on a ten year route to settlement with reduced rights compared to refugees who arrived lawfully, who were put on a five year route.

It was always a counterproductive policy, as we warned the government at the time. It deterred no-one but it did create much more work for the Home Office, at a time when the asylum backlog was already soaring uncontrollably. Those on the ten year route would have had to make two additional applications to the Home Office each, which would inevitably had been granted.

The immigration rules will be changed in July to bring the policy to an end. Caseworkers will then be pulled off dealing with the asylum backlog to contact the refugees who were put on the ten year route and to bring their status into line with others:

Individuals who have already received a “Group 2” or humanitarian protection decision under post-28 June 2022 policies will be contacted and will have their conditions aligned to those afforded to “Group 1” refugees. This includes length of permission to stay, route to settlement, and eligibility for Family Reunion.

This buries one of the last vestiges of former Home Secretary Priti Patel’s “landmark” Nationality and Borders Act 2022. She has no legacy to show for her three years as Home Secretary other than soaring small boat arrivals and a soaring asylum backlog. She was an absolutely abysmal Home Secretary by any measure at all.

This was what I wrote on 22 June 2022 when the details of the policy were announced:

The policy exemplifies Priti Patel’s modern Home Office. It pretends to be tough as old boots but in reality it creates genuine but fairly minor problems for very vulnerable people with no likely policy outcomes achieved. What it does do is make more work for officials, thereby worsening the backlogs in the asylum system. It is not just pointless; it is actually counterproductive.

The whole episode calls into question the quality of ministers holding one of the highest offices in the land in one of government’s most important departments, the ascendancy of politics over reality and the quality of advice given to ministers. The Home Office’s institutional fingerprints were all over that legislation.

You might have thought that abandoning such a landmark policy might give pause for thought about the current one. But no. We’ll soon be writing a similar obituary for the Illegal Migration Bill, no matter who forms the next government. Like the 2022 legislation before it, it is unworkable and counterproductive and will need to be abandoned soon after it takes effect.

The ministers responsible will all have moved on, though. It’s all about the short term politics. They are an absolute shower, the lot of them.

Interested in refugee law? You might like Colin's book, imaginatively called "Refugee Law" and published by Bristol University Press.

Communicating important legal concepts in an approachable way, this is an essential guide for students, lawyers and non-specialists alike.

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Colin Yeo

Immigration and asylum barrister, blogger, writer and consultant at Garden Court Chambers in London and founder of the Free Movement immigration law website.