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UKIP plan would increase UK asylum claims


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It tickles me that UKIP plan to scrap the EU agreement that permits the UK to return asylum seekers to other EU countries without considering their asylum claim. As it stands, this EU agreement, often referred to as the Dublin Convention or Dublin Regulation (not Treaty as UKIP seem to think), substantially reduces the number of asylum claims made in the UK. UKIP’s proposal is therefore perhaps the perfect example of a policy that would have the opposite effect to that intended.

It is also an ideal illustration of the problems with reciprocity the UK would face if seeking to withdraw from the European Union.

The announcement was brief but shows several very basic misunderstandings:

UKIP will support the measures to abolish the provisions of the Dublin Treaty, that says that we cannot choose to identify the country an illegal migrant comes from if they do not have any identifying documents. We will send you back.

The Dublin agreement (now in its third version and referred to by lawyers as “Dublin 3” – fellow lawyers may be interested in Mark Symes’ training course on this, available for Free Movement Members) basically works to the “benefit” of the United Kingdom if, like UKIP, you believe that the UK should be home to fewer refugees. In short, where a refugee enters the EU through another EU state and is fingerprinted there, if that refugee then reaches the UK he or she can more or less automatically be returned to the EU state of entry. The Dublin agreement that UKIP wants to scrap exactly does allow the UK to “send them back” as UKIP would so charmingly put it.

If you search on this blog, you will find a lot of material on how we pesky immigration lawyers regularly try to challenge the Dublin agreements on behalf of our clients, who do not want to be sent back to other EU states.

Without that sort of reciprocal agreement in place, it would be impossible to send refugees back to the third countries through which they entered the UK, such as France. Why on earth would the French accept such a person back onto their territory? They would simply refuse. The French would also, no doubt, withdraw cooperation with UK border officials on French soil, the so called ‘juxtaposed controls’ that have drastically reduced the number of refugees reaching Dover and other ports of entry since the early 2000s from their peak of over 80,000 down to around 23,000. The French might indeed wave through those seeking to reach the UK and reduce security around the French embarkation points and lorry parks. It might be seen as a solution to the migrant camps around Calais.

And this is the problem with withdraw from the EU in a nutshell. Why would other countries agree to UK demands without some sort of legal framework of mutual cooperation and goodwill? UKIP seem to want to stand in glorious isolation but have literally no idea of the consequences.

In contrast to the comedy incompetence of the abolition of the Dublin agreement, a further suggestion of denying entry to refugees without ID documents is the politics of the gutter. Few genuine refugees have ID documents. Many will never have obtained them in their home country in the first place, fewer will have a chance to bring them when they flee and more still will lose them in the perilous journey that follows. This particular policy would also be in direct violation of the Refugee Convention.

The comedy returns, though, with UKIP also announcing a new target of 50,000 per year “for employment”. As Jonathan Portes has pointed out, the current total is actually 45,000.

So it looks as if UKIP is planning to increase migration for employment. This would be something of a surprise to UKIP voters, who seem to be expecting cuts to immigration. Alternatively, it is a cock up by the UKIP spokesman responsible, who didn’t spend long enough looking at or understanding current figures and made the policy up on the back of a fag packet. Er…

If you want more of the same, though, you can also read Steve Peers’ very good analysis on the same issues. For myself, I almost feel guilty for pointing all this out. It is the equivalent of mocking the new and rather dim boy in class. UKIP is not a ‘proper’ political party and is proud of it, and has no real aspirations to enter government. Their actual policies are therefore irrelevant and truly are drawn up on the back of a fag packet. The appeal of a nationalist party like UKIP is all about emotion and ‘them and us’. It is only the conventions of the political convention that has misled certain UKIP activists to try and announce a policy at all. And look what happens when they do.

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.


3 Responses

  1. After the disappointment of the recent decision in the Court of Appeal in Tabrizagh, and with the ongoing risk to our clients on return to Italy, Bulgaria and Hungary it was clear that we needed a political solution to this one.

    So I contacted UKIP HQ, and over a pint of warm English ale Nigel agreed that it would be UKIP policy to hugely increase the number of refugees in the UK.

    “We’re a welcoming country,” he said puffing on a cigarette, “and there’s room for everyone. I’ve got a spare room myself you know.”

  2. A similar effect is achieved by the Conservative plan to lower the benefit cap. The old “adequate maintenance test” still applies in a number of cases, notably children joining adult relatives with settled status. By lowering the benefit cap, the Conservatives would lower the amount of maintenance required to bring such children to the UK…and in particular the amount of maintenance would cease to change after a certain number of children. (Depending on the amount paid by the applicant in rent, this is already true for more than (about) 4 children: of course, there would still be other problems with bringing large numbers of children, notably the accommodation requirement).