The UK government’s consultation process on significant changes to its refugee policy on Friday was labeled a “sham” in a joint letter signed by almost 200 rights groups.
The letter co-written by 192 human rights groups, refugee bodies and faith groups, condemned the six-week consultation process for its so-called New Plan for Immigration.
“The 'New Plan for Immigration' is a half-baked political manifesto. It lays out vague, unworkable, cruel and potentially unlawful plans justified by misleading or simply incorrect evidence, wrapped up in racist and divisive language,” said the letter.
“The Government left people fewer than six working weeks to give their thoughts on the largest changes to the asylum system in two decades. Normally consultations like this last at least 12 weeks,” it added, stating that the six weeks will also include public holidays, Ramadan and an election that will distract the public from the drastic changes.
The coalition criticized the poor design of the consultation process, describing it as “confusing and inaccessible.”
Additionally, the documents provided are only available in English and Welsh and are designed to force people into endorsing the government’s plans. Furthermore, due to the nature of the local elections, public officials are restricted from revealing what the plans entail.
An important point that was highlighted in the letter is that the government’s dialogue on the new policies does not prioritize the views, opinions and experiences of refugees seeking asylum in the UK -- the very people for which the new laws are designed. No questions are made addressing the personal experiences of many refugees who have fled war, persecution or poor standards of living.
“This is not a process designed by a Government that genuinely wants to listen or has any interest in being challenged or changing its approach. We can only conclude this is a thinly veiled public relations exercise with a pre-determined outcome that we’ve been reading about on the front pages of newspapers for months,” the letter said.
No. 10 has also been accused of forgetting the “shameful legacy” of the Windrush scandal, where immigrants who have lived in the UK for decades and helped rebuild it from the ruins of WWII, were sent back to their countries of origin despite not having lived there.
Prior to the publishing of the government dialogue, the Home Office signed a legal agreement that required the department to carefully and properly consider the impacts of its immigration and asylum policies on refugees.
The Home Office, according to the alliance, has failed to meet this commitment.
Further to its letter, the coalition has also launched a petition urging the public to sign the open letter and present a united front in conveying a strong message to the government that its new immigration policies are not welcome and should not be endorsed.
“This Government already punishes refugees at every turn. Instead of fixing this injustice, they are doubling down on it. They are planning to leave traumatised people stuck in refugee camps on UK soil or in dangerous situations abroad. Their proposals are cruel, unjust and deadly,” it said.