Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick has defended the Government’s position on Sudan refugees after being challenged in the House of Commons.
Due to the ongoing conflict, the UK has deployed troops to the African country in order to extract some of the 4,000 British passport holders who are desperate to flee the fighting. And as those people continue to plead for a route out of the country, it is feared the number of Sudanese refugees arriving on these shores across the English Channel in small boats will rise.
Government figures show that, between 2018 and 2022, 5,467 people from Sudan are known to have reached the UK by small boat. However, Jenrick is adamant that a Ukraine-style refugee scheme won’t be implemented – and he revealed there are no immediate plans to expand safe and legal routes to the UK.
Jenrick recently said: “Consistently we’ve argued as a Government that those in peril should seek sanctuary in the first safe country and I know the UNHCR (UN High Commissioner for Refugees) will be operating in those countries.
“We will do all we can through our development budget and other levers to support the UNHCR and those organisations that will respond when people arrive in those neighbouring countries.”
But he was challenged in the Commons by the SNP’s Alison Thewliss, who rattled off a paragraph from a UNHCR statement. Thewliss said: “I think he is in danger of taking the UNHCR’s name in vain as they have issued a statement, which says: ‘The UNHCR wishes to clarify that there is no mechanism through which refugees can approach the UNHCR with the intention of seeking asylum in the UK. There is no asylum visa or ‘queue’ for the United Kingdom’.”
Then she pointed at Jenrick and asked: “Would you like to correct the record?”
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Jenrick was firm on his stance on the matter, though, replying: “With all due respect to the honourable lady, I met the assistant commissioner of the UNHCR last week and had this conversation directly with her and so whatever she may be quoting on her iPhone, I would prefer to take on face value what discussions I have had with the assistant commissioner.”
Social media users, however, were not impressed with the Minister’s response. One observer on Twitter writing: “Should the Speaker not be holding the minister to account and making him respond to explain his falsehood?”
Another wrote: “Tories like Robert Jenrick aren’t even pretending to be interested in facts, objective truth and empirical reality anymore.”
The UNHCR statement went on to say: “UNHCR works in partnership with a number of governments on its global resettlement scheme. Resettlement is made available only for a very limited number of refugees who have left their own countries and been identified as particularly at risk in the countries where they initially sought refuge, and cannot integrate there or return home.
“It is the rare exception – available to fewer than 1% of refugees worldwide. There is no application process for resettlement – refugees at heightened risk are identified by UNHCR through our ongoing protection programmes in countries of asylum.
“Currently, new resettlement opportunities to the UK are minimal, and there is no quota for any nationality currently in place. Resettlement arrivals in the UK – mostly of cases referred pre-pandemic – currently stand at a rate of around 100 individuals arriving in the UK per month.
“The overwhelming majority of refugees have no access to such pathways to the UK. The vast majority of refugees remain in countries neighbouring their own or apply for asylum elsewhere, with only a very small number seeking protection in the UK.”
On Parliament’s own website, it explains how to claim asylum in the UK: “A person must be physically in the UK. It is not possible to apply from outside the country, and there is no asylum visa.
“A person cannot obtain a visa with the explicit purpose of seeking asylum. Therefore, for individuals who do not have visa-free travel to the UK, they must enter either irregularly, such as by a small boat; by using false documents; or on a visa for some other purpose, such as tourism or study.
“Claiming asylum is not illegal, but entering or remaining in the UK without the required permission has been an offence for many years.
“International refugee law does not require asylum-seekers to make their claim in the first safe country they arrive in after leaving their country of origin. However, UK asylum law contains measures to encourage people to do so. For example, people who travel through a safe third country can be treated as inadmissible to the UK asylum system and removed to a third country, or if allowed to stay, be given a less favourable immigration status.”
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