UK White Paper on Asylum and Immigration: “Secure Borders, Safe Haven”
· UNHCR stands ready to work with the UK government on the following points.
· In line with the policy priorities of UNHCR and its Executive Committee members, attention is drawn to the special needs of women and children in all areas covered by the White Paper.
· The benefits of expedited citizenship procedures will be enhanced if they are combined with integration and labour market measures;
· Issues relating to refugees and statelessness need to be incorporated into citizenship curricula throughout the United Kingdom.
· The opening up of migration channels need not weaken national commitments on the asylum front.
· A UK resettlement programme will have impact if it is designed around protection objectives, initiated on a generous footing and expanded over time;
· Resettled refugees will benefit from “joined up” implementation of expedited citizenship procedures, the Refugee Integration Programme and the labour market measures outlined in the White Paper.
· Accommodation and care arrangements should be to high standards, and asylum seekers should have access to quality legal advice wherever they may reside;
· Management of these centres should draw on UK and EU best practice.
· The UK’s Reservation to the 1989 Convention on the Rights of the Child should be withdrawn;
· Children should not be detained.
· Age assessments need to be carried out only by experts, and staff involved with asylum seeking children should be adequately trained;
· Children should be given the opportunity to participate in the asylum process, for example through the appointment of a guardian;
· There is a need for independent expert oversight of matters involving separated asylum-seeking children.
· There is a need to enhance the quality of decision-making at first instance, for example through ongoing training of legal representatives and decision-makers;
· Proposals for reforming the appeals system should not compromise on principles of fairness;
· Effective reporting measures should be explored rather than the detention of asylum seekers;
· The proposal to repeal Part III of the 1999 Act should be reconsidered, and measures be put in place to facilitate bail applications by detained asylum seekers, and assure them access to quality legal advice and representation;
· The proposal to extend the power of detainee escorts should be reconsidered.
· Principles of informed and independent decision-making need to be respected, and the sustainability of return underpinned through comprehensive schemes in countries of return.
· Refugee integration programmes are best implemented in tandem with resettlement programmes and employment initiatives;
· Integration programmes can benefit from the insights of refugees in the UK.
Tackling fraud – people trafficking, illegal entry and illegal working
· Measures to combat trafficking and smuggling should not impede access to procedures for determining protection needs;
· The proposed best practice toolkit should address situations where victims of trafficking and smuggling may be in need of international protection.
· Asylum seekers’ support should be made comparable to the national minimum.
· New legislation should reflect a proper balance between secure borders and the UK’s international protection responsibilities;
· Training and monitoring schemes will enhance fairness in both status determination and removal procedures.
· More principled application of existing 1951 Convention provisions is preferable to new legislation.
· New legislation on this issue should be consistent with 1951 Convention and its framework principles;
UNHCR BO London; 21 March, 2002.