Lords Committee raises concerns about changes to Asylum process
The House of Lords Secondary Legislation Scrutiny Committee has taken issue with the Home Office’s Statement of Changes in Immigration Rules on the grounds that its supporting documentation provides insufficient information about the policy’s objectives and effective implementation.
The principal function of the instrument, which came into effect on 31 December 2020, is to clarify the places and circumstances in which an asylum application may be properly made, and to enhance the UK’s capacity to treat as inadmissible claims made by those who have passed through a safe third country.
In its weekly report the Committee criticised the lack of information, for example, enforcement guidance, to explain how these changes to asylum applications would work in practice. In addition, subsequent checks after 1 January showed that relevant web pages have not been updated even though the legislation is in effect.
In response to the Committee’s questions the Home Office said the aim of the instrument was to deter migrants from paying large sums of money to people smugglers in order to undertake dangerous journeys across the Channel.
The Government also said they hoped that future “robust return” agreements would support the rule change by allowing those who have made an inadmissible application to be returned to an EU state. However they also said that if these individuals could not be deported “within a matter of months”, then the person would be entered into the asylum system anyway.
In conclusion the Committee felt the imprecise terms used in the Rule changes might merely result in delays to the asylum process and therefore questioned its effectiveness in deterring “inappropriate” asylum seekers. The Committee urged the House to ask the Minister for details of how the "robust returns" policy is to be delivered and the deterrent effect promulgated.
Commenting, Lord Hodgson of Astley Abbotts, Chair of the Committee, said:
“The Committee notes with concern two points of equally poor practice; firstly, insufficient information to Parliament about how these changes are intended to operate and be enforced; and second the Home Office’s subsequent failure to update relevant government web pages on how to apply for asylum after the legislation had taken effect.
“Where the manner of enforcement is likely to make a significant difference to the outcome of the legislation then the House should be given adequate information alongside the instrument.
“The effectiveness of this policy in deterring migrants from making an inadmissible asylum claim is questionable and we urge the House to ask the Minister for details of how the “robust returns” policy is to be delivered and the deterrent effect promulgated.”