On 24th March 2021, the UK Government published its New Plan for Immigration, outlining its proposals for reforming the asylum system in the UK. The consultation period for these proposals closes on the 6th May 2021.
Our primary purpose as a charity is to grow the size and impact of the Community Sponsorship programme; we want to see as many communities as possible welcoming as many refugees as possible. Our work is founded on the belief that all of us benefit from welcoming newcomers, and that these benefits are most strongly felt when communities are leading the welcome.
The Government is rightly proud of its track record in resettlement over the past six years. With 20,000 refugees welcomed through the Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme, and the successful launch of the Community Sponsorship programme, the Government has shown that it can deliver successful and ambitious resettlement programmes at scale, and has built an international reputation for doing so.
We are strongly supportive of the Government’s desire to strengthen safe and legal routes to the UK for those who are in need of a place of safety, and particularly to grow the role of Community Sponsorship in welcoming refugees. But we are deeply concerned by the Government’s proposal to make the support that a refugee receives and the immigration status that they may obtain dependent upon how they have reached the UK. Our view is that this risks creating a two-tier system which will have a significantly negative effect upon the growth of Community Sponsorship.
Growing Community Sponsorship depends upon recruiting more volunteers to sponsor refugees. Since the NPI policy document was first published, we have been encouraging Community Sponsors to contact us to express their views. In response to the large number of emails we received, and the strength of feeling conveyed therein, we decided to host a call to listen further to the views of Community Sponsors.
On 22nd April, 43 people attended this call. The overriding message was strongly critical of the proposals contained within the NPI to reform the asylum system, and particularly the entrenchment of a two-tier approach to the treatment of refugees. Words including ‘disgraceful’, ‘appalling’, ‘preposterous’, ‘illegal’, ‘horrifying’ and ‘barbaric’ were repeatedly used by Community Sponsors to express their opinion of the NPI proposals for the asylum system. They told us that this felt like ‘hostile environment tactics’ and that it makes them feel ‘disillusioned’ and ‘angry’.
Already, some sponsors are questioning whether they can remain involved in Community Sponsorship, or whether by supporting a Government programme they are tacitly supporting the rest of the proposals contained within the NPI.
From this feedback, it is clear to us that strengthening safe and legal routes like Community Sponsorship is intimately connected with the nature of asylum reform. Community Sponsors are public-spirited people who want to play a part in the immigration system – but only if that system is compassionate and underpinned by respect for human rights. We urge the Government to re-think its approach to asylum reform, putting such values at the core.
On 4th May 2021, we submitted our response to the NPI online. You can read our responses the open text questions below. We recommend reading our responses alongside this PDF, containing the text of the questions. This is because the numbering of our responses below corresponds to the numbering in this PDF document. Note that if you are responding to the consultation as an individual, your survey will be numbered differently.
We are publishing our responses in the interest of transparency. Our responses are not intended as a guide.
Please note that we have only answered questions where we felt that we had relevant expertise. We have also abstained from answering questions were we felt that we could not accurately represent our views (we have specified where this was the case).