Westminster Legal Policy Forum

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Next steps for asylum policy in the UK

Morning, Wednesday, 8th September 2021


***Full-scale policy conference taking place online***

This conference will consider next steps for asylum policy in the UK.


The discussion is taking place in the context of the recent New Plan for Immigration policy paper from the Home Office, which aims to improve the fairness and efficiency of the asylum system, such as through tackling illegal entry and strengthening legal routes, reviewing refugee family reunion routes, and improving the integration of refugees into UK society.


Delegates will have the opportunity to discuss the policy paper in light of other relevant developments, such as the criticism it has drawn from certain human rights and refugee advocacy groups, the Windrush Consultation Scheme, and the recent reports from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI).


We are pleased to be able to include keynote sessions with Glyn Williams, Director General, Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Systems Policy and Strategy Group, Home Office; Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, Representative to the UK, UNHCR; Judge Michael Clements, President, Immigration and Asylum Chamber; and Dr Peter W. Walsh, Researcher, Migration Observatory, University of Oxford. We are also very grateful to Lord Dubs for agreeing to be a chair at this conference.


The discussion is bringing together stakeholders with key policy officials who are due to attend from the Home Office; the MoJ; UKVI; The Scottish Government and the Welsh Government.


The agenda:

  • Priorities for reforming the UK’s asylum system and the implementation of the New Plan for Immigration
  • Support services for refugees - addressing issues around integration, supporting unaccompanied asylum-seeking children and family reunion routes, and the future for community sponsorship
  • Expanding the asylum estate and the future of reception centres
  • International implications of the asylum system on refugee protection and the refugee convention
  • Developing a streamlined claims system for asylum and strengthening legal pathways for entry in the UK
  • The asylum appeals system - key priorities moving forward
  • Improving international cooperation to address illegal crossings of the Channel
  • Tackling illegal routes for entry into the UK and reforming the asylum appeals process

Key areas for discussion:
the New Plan for Immigration:

  • priorities for implementing the new approach
  • considering key issues arising from the consultation
  • ensuring coherence with the Immigration Act
  • Keynote contribution: Glyn Williams, Director General, Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Systems Policy and Strategy Group, Home Office

Support services:

  • integration - the role of education and English language skills, community support and sponsorship, and priorities for ensuring local authorities and services have adequate resources and skills
  • refugee children and family reunion - strengthening the legal and policy framework for support for child refugees, and the role of grass-roots initiatives and the charity sector

Asylum estate and reception centres:

  • health and safety:
    • responding to the recommendations from the recent ICIBI report, and priorities for providing asylum seekers with safe accommodation
    • what has been learned from communal health maintenance during the pandemic
    • best practice in targeting services to safeguard those at risk of sexual harassment or abuse
    • ways to dovetail with the provision of mental health and trauma-informed support
  • capacity:
    • key concerns around expanding the asylum estate and ending the use of hotels
    • the role of funding, and access to resources and skilled staff in preventing the system from being overwhelmed
    • ways to make the system more agile and responsive to potential future increases in asylum seekers

Streamlining the asylum appeals system:

  • legal pathways for entry - priorities for strengthening legal pathways for entry to the UK
  • recent developments - priorities following the publication of the Independent Review of Administrative Law (IRAL) and the Judicial Review Bill by Government, which include proposals to reverse the Cart judgement, delegates will look at the implications including:
    • how abolishing Cart JR will impact immigration cases, immigrants, and asylum seekers who wish to challenge Tribunal decisions
    • how many people are likely to be affected, in light of recent debate surrounding the statistical impact of Cart JR cases
    • whether the changes will cut delays in cases, as intended by Government
  • Keynote contributions: Judge Michael Clements, President, Immigration and Asylum Chamber; and Dr Peter W. Walsh, Researcher, Migration Observatory, University of Oxford

Tackling illegal routes for entry:

  • border control - whether recent proposals will be successful in deterring illegal attempts at entry, including toughening criminal measures against those who attempt to enter the UK illegally, and strengthening the powers of the UK Border Force
  • international co-operation - how best to strengthen international collaboration through border enforcement, particularly with France and Belgium, following the signing of an international agreement between Britain and France last November
  • Keynote contribution: Colin Yeo, Barrister, Garden Court Chambers

International considerations:

  • the UK asylum system - considering its implications on international efforts to safeguard and support refugees, as well as the refugee convention
  • with a keynote contribution from Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor, Representative to the UK, UNHCR

A scan of relevant developments:

  • the New Plan for Immigration - the recent policy paper and consultation from the Home Office, seeking to improve the efficiency and fairness of the asylum system, including commitments to:
    • tackling illegal entry into the UK, and strengthening legal routes
    • ending the use of hotels for accommodating arrivals, and expanding the asylum estate
    • reviewing refugee family reunion routes
    • improving the integration of refugees into UK society, as well as the support available for helping refugees access employment
  • criticism of the UK Government’s consultation on refugee policy - with a public statement, signed by almost 200 human rights and refugee advocacy groups, criticising the Home Office consultation and raising concerns over its design, questions included, and refugees’ ability to respond to it
  • the Windrush Compensation Scheme - the Home Office scheme that has now paid over £14m in compensation to those affected, and has recently announced a further £12m worth of additional support
  • recent reports from the Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration (ICIBI), including:
    • An inspection into contingency asylum accommodation - evaluating the Penally Camp and Napier Barracks and finding:
      • significant issues around safeguarding and management of communal health during the pandemic
      • a lack of resources and skilled staff
      • high levels of mental health issues amongst residents
    • An inspection of the work of Border Force, Immigration Enforcement, and UK Visas and Immigration, to identify, investigate, disrupt and prosecute perpetrators of modern slavery and human trafficking - finding that despite operational activity having increased since the 2014 Modern Slavery Strategy, the approach is lacking a clear and coherent division of roles and responsibilities within the Borders, Immigration and Citizenship System (BICS), and the system remains disjointed
  • the Immigration Act - which ended free movement and introduced a points-based immigration system for entry into the UK
  • the UK Resettlement Scheme - which reaffirms the UK’s commitment to refugee resettlement, the UKRS aims to continue to offer a safe and legal route to those in need of protection
  • high court ruling on lone child migrants in adult hotels - ruling that child asylum seekers cannot be placed in adult hotel accommodation, with three young asylum seekers winning the right to be placed in the care of social services, in the first case of its kind last year
  • the Independent Review of Administrative Law - launched last year, the review will consider options for reforming the process of Judicial Review, including proposals to reverse the Cart judgement
    • the Judicial Review Bill - announced in the Queen’s Speech, and aiming to ‘restore the balance of power between the executive, legislature and the courts,’ taking forward proposals from the Independent Review
  • Asylum support instructions: policy bulletins - the recent update to the UK Government’s guidance on immigration and asylum support applications

Policy officials attending:

Our forums are known for attracting strong interest from policymakers and stakeholders. Places have been reserved by officials from the Home Office; the Ministry of Justice; The Scottish Government; UKVI and the Welsh Government.

Overall, we expect speakers and attendees to be a senior and informed group including Members of both Houses of Parliament, senior government and regulatory officials involved in this area of policy, as well as from other stakeholders involved with and affected by asylum policy in the UK, including legal practitioners and advisors, legal training providers, immigration and asylum support services, charities, parental and children’s rights groups, family and marriage mediators, human rights campaigners, researchers from academia and higher education, together with reporters from the national and specialist media.


This is a full-scale conference taking place online***

  • full, four-hour programme including comfort breaks - you’ll also get a full recording and transcript to refer back to
  • information-rich discussion involving key policymakers and stakeholders
  • conference materials provided in advance, including speaker biographies
  • speakers presenting via webcam, accompanied by slides if they wish, using the Cisco WebEx professional online conference platform (easy for delegates - we’ll provide full details)
  • opportunities for live delegate questions and comments with all speakers
  • a recording of the addresses, all slides cleared by speakers, and further materials, is made available to all delegates afterwards as a permanent record of the proceedings
  • delegates are able to add their own written comments and articles following the conference, to be distributed to all attendees and more widely
  • networking too - there will be opportunities for delegates to e-meet and interact - we’ll tell you how!

Full information and guidance on how to take part will be sent to delegates before the conference



Keynote Speakers

Dr Peter W. Walsh

Researcher, Migration Observatory, University of Oxford

Judge Michael Clements

President, Immigration and Asylum Chamber

Keynote Speakers

Judge Michael Clements

President, Immigration and Asylum Chamber

Dr Peter W. Walsh

Researcher, Migration Observatory, University of Oxford

Chair

Lord Dubs

Member, Joint Committee on Human Rights

Speakers

Professor Cornelius Katona

Medical and Research Director, Helen Bamber Foundation

Steve Valdez-Symonds

Refugee and Migrant Rights Programme Director, Amnesty International UK

Glyn Williams

Director General, Borders, Immigration and Citizenship Systems Policy and Strategy Group, Home Office

Professor Elspeth Guild

Professor of Law, Queen Mary University of London and Partner, Immigration, Kingsley Napley

Professor Jenny Phillimore

Professor of Migration and Superdiversity, Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology, University of Birmingham

Madeline Gleeson

Lawyer and Senior Research Associate, Andrew and Renata Kaldor Centre for International Refugee Law, University of New South Wales, Sydney

Rossella Pagliuchi-Lor

Representative to the UK, UNHCR

Colin Yeo

Barrister, Garden Court Chambers