(Eng) The UK Asylum Bill

neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Mon, 8 Jan 1996 05:05:44 +0100

As you read this up to 13,000 people are facing sudden
destitution. Despite a last-minute postponement the Government
is still planning to remove at least 7,500 asylum seekers, plus
their dependents, from the benefits system, pending their appeals=20
against negative immigration decisions. Around 1,000 of these=20
will probably become homeless almost immediately. In addition,
the Government has just succeeded in getting its Asylum and
Immigration Bill through a second reading in the House of
Commons, to massive condemnation from refugee organisations
and human rights groups such as Amnesty International. Expected
to be implemenented this year, the new Bill includes the following

=B7 Employers to be fined for employing illegal immigrants, ie
someone who doesn't have permission to stay in the UK. This
could lead to employers asking for passports before taking
somebody on, and discrimination- as feared by Education &
Employment Secretary Gillian Shephard in a leaked memo.=20

=B7 Tougher jail sentences for bogus marriages and people who
organise illegal entry for asylum seekers. Many asylum seekers
have to use illegal methods of entry into a country as they are often
unable to get the right papers to enter legally.=20

=B7 A new 'white list' of countries presumed safe in human rights
terms, from whom applications will probably be refused. These
include Ghana, Pakistan, India and Poland - all of which produce
hundreds of asylum applications every year. According to the
Government, nearly 8,000 people applied for asylum from those
countries last year.=20

Britain is signatory to an international agreement from the Fifties
guaranteeing itself as a safe place for persecuted individuals. This
makes it effectively illegal for the UK to turn away anyone
applying for asylum, unless the immigration authorities decide
their claim is unfounded. But the new Bill, propounded fiercely
by Home Secretary Michael Howard, is the latest in a long line of
harsh legislation aimed at reducing the numbers of people who
apply for asylum in the UK. In 1991 only 16 per cent of
applications for asylum were refused; in 1994 some 78 per cent
were rejected. =20

The Bill has been slammed by organisations like The Refugee
Council. Chief executive Nick Hardwick warned: "If you seek
sanctuary from oppression, do not look to the UK to offer you a
safe haven." The ultimate irony in all this is in the man behind
much of the Bill: Home Secretary, Michael Howard. As detailed
below, his family was saved by Britain's previously more generous
attitude to refugees. Without the laws of asylum, Michael Howard
would not exist.=20

Article from THE BIG ISSUE - a journal sold by the homeless on
the streets of the UK to help them survive neo-liberal policies