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What is our new Prime Minister’s stance on refugees?

On 6th September, Liz Truss became Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. This means she is in charge of the policy and decisions of the government, so her views, including those on refugees, can have a big impact on the country.


Beginning on a positive note, Truss does seem to have some limits to the extent she is willing to go to in order to prevent asylum seekers from coming to the UK. This was shown when Rishi Sunak, the other finalist of the Conservative leadership race, suggested asylum seekers crossing the Channel be detained in cruise ships. Truss criticised this plan as not only irrational, but also as potentially illegal. (Sidor)


Unfortunately, Truss’ critique of Sunak’s stance on refugee policy seems to be the furthest her liberal views on this topic extend. For example, she wants to ‘expand the Rwanda policy with more countries’. (Truss) The issues with the Rwanda policy can be summarised as it being unlikely to achieve its goal of deterring refugees from travelling across the Channel, yet likely to go against a legally binding UN treaty of which the UK is a signatory. (Care4Calais) Please see our 5th September social media post (linked here) for more details on this inhumane plan. Furthermore, Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, has expressed that Truss’ claims that critics of the Rwanda policy ‘need to suggest an alternative policy that will work’ is unfair, as ‘many, many suggestions’ have been offered. (MacInnes, Syal, & Elgot)


Truss has also said she wants to ‘reinforce Border Force with more staff’. (Truss) This involves a 20% increase in the frontline border force and a 100% increase in the maritime border force. (Consterdine) She is focused on increasing staffing levels rather than actually making improvements to what Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, David Neal, describes as an ‘ineffective and inefficient’ system for many reasons other than being understaffed. For example, he notes that the necessary records are not taken at the border, so asylum seekers can easily fall victim to people smuggling without the authorities being aware. (Sinmaz) In addition, it seems far more logical to instead use funding to clear the huge backlog of asylum cases. This would not only allow people to escape the vulnerable state of limbo in which they do not have the same rights as others living in the UK, but it would also reduce government spending on the accommodation they are obliged to provide those awaiting a decision.


The new Prime Minister is also keen to ‘not cower to the ECHR and ensure it works for Britain’. (Truss) The ECHR is the European Convention on Human Rights, an international convention to protect human rights and political freedoms in Europe. It is of course very concerning that Truss is clearly intending to have our country’s policy not respect the rights and freedoms of refugees.


In summary, we may now have different leadership to the government that introduced the Rwanda policy, but it does not present hope for the UK’s treatment of displaced people.


References:

Consterdine, ‘Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak want to crack down on migration – an expert reviews their plans’, https://theconversation.com/amp/liz-truss-and-rishi-sunak-want-to-crack-down-on-migration-an-expert-reviews-their-plans-188246

MacInnes, Syal, & Elgot, ‘UN refugee chief accuses Truss of ‘untrue’ statements on Rwanda policy’, https://amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jun/14/liz-truss-rwanda-flights-policy-asylum-seekers

Sidor, ‘What do Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak think about immigration?’, https://freemovement.org.uk/what-do-liz-truss-and-rishi-sunak-think-about-immigration/

Sinmaz, ‘Home Office accused of dodging scrutiny over Channel crossings strategy’, https://amp.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/jul/21/uk-action-against-small-boats-possibly-counterproductive-review-finds-border-force

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