UN urges Britain to do “right” by refugees

Safya Khan-Ruf - 09 05 17

Britain’s next government must “do the right thing” and take in 10,000 more refugees a year, according to a representative from the United Nation’s human rights body, the UNHCR.

Ahead of the General Elections on 8 June, Gonzalo Vargas Llosa, UNHCR representative to the UK, has urged the next government to resettle more refugees.

“Britain has a rich history of welcoming those forced to flee and UNHCR urges the next government to do the right thing and ensure a fair and equal treatment for all refugees,” Llosa wrote in an article published by The Times newspaper on Monday.

Courtesy of Gonzalo Vargas Llosa/Twitter

The former prime minster, David Cameron, had agreed to resettle 20,000 Syrians and 3,000 unaccompanied asylum-seeking children by 2020. However, the Conservative government under his successor Theresa May scrapped part of the scheme. May is widely expected to win the General Election.

The UK representative has also called on May to help prevent refugees being separated from their families. “For many refugees, the pain of separation remains the biggest obstacle to their successful integration in a new country,” he wrote.

Family reunification policies in Britain don’t allow refugee children to sponsor their parents or siblings according to the British Red Cross. Only children under 18 are allowed to reunite with their parents.

Failing asylum seekers

Llosa also criticised the number of asylum seekers detained in the UK. Up to 13,000 detentions were recorded last year.

“Being detained can leave psychological scars that endure years after release. This problem is exacerbated by the deeply worrying fact that Britain currently has no time limit on immigration detention. The cost of maintaining such a sizeable detention system is also extremely high,” he said.

May, who was in charge of immigration policy for six years, reaffirmed on Monday that her party will bring down net immigration to Britain down to “tens of thousands” per year if she wins the election.

“When we leave the European Union we will have the opportunity to make sure we have control of our borders – leaving the EU means we won’t have free movement as it has been in the past,” she added.

The UK receives “considerably less” asylum applications than other European Union countries according to the UNHCR. It received nearly 40,000 applications last year and is the member state with the sixth highest number of asylum applications. Germany leads with nearly 700,000; followed by Italy and France – together they account for 75% of all applications made in the EU.

According to UNHCR statistics, 86% of refugees live in developing countries rather than the wealthy industrialised countries.


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