If you, as many others – including the Home Office it seems, had only just a vague grasp of how different laws and treaties work in relation to asylum seekers and deportation from the UK, this very informative piece will definitely clarify things.

First published in August 2020.

It is incredible that the Home Office can get so much wrong, and so offensively, in one short tweet. Okay, not that incredible actually as, aside from a disregard for circumstances, law, or human rights, this is a purely political decision.

Twitter – @UKHomeOffice

“Small boat crossings are totally unnecessary.”

There are number of reasons this is wrong. First off though, reasons why people make the crossing. Let’s be honest, no-one is paying upwards of £3,000 to cross one of the busiest shipping routes in the world in a dinghy for fun.

Keep in mind we are talking about an incredibly small proportion of asylums seekers crossing from the continent in the first place, and we are not seeing a significant increase in the overall number of asylum seekers applying. So, mostly, this is a manufactured outrage.

As explained here there are good reason why France, for example, may not be considered by some, again we are talking about a small proportion, of asylum seekers.

What about other EU countries though, surely they are safe? I mean, we go on holiday there.

If you look at Germany, one of the two countries those involved in the Brook House protest were due to be deported today, last year alone there were more than 1,600 attacks against asylum seekers and refugees recorded by the authorities.

Or then, there is Spain, where there are multiple cases of asylum seekers being forced to sleep rough. The same reason, among others which France was recently ruled to have violated their rights by the European Court of Human Rights.

And so it goes on. Greece, for example, has a long history of violating refugees rights, most recently in the news with its ‘push back operations’ where it dragged more than 1,000 out into the Mediterranean and left them there.

Meanwhile the UK has shut down most “legal” routes of entry and increasingly limited the resettlement programs which it has offered to a minority of those who need it, leaving asylum seekers with no choice but to make their own.

With the border closures caused by Covid-19, asylum seekers have been left with no choice but to make small boat crossings to try and reach a country, the UK, where they feel safe.

“Return migrants with no right to be in the UK.”

There are several instruments involved in international refugee law. First off, because the government is using the phrase “first safe country” in a lot of its messages on this at the moment, are the Dublin III Regulations.

Now, it is crucial to point out a number of things here. Firstly, all EU Member States, and this includes the UK for the purposes of transition, are bound to abide by international law ahead of EU Law, depending on which treaties they have agreed to.

This means that it is necessary to explain that under the International Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees there is no requirement for them to stop in “first safe country” and they cannot be penalised for manner of entry.

The idea of “first safe country” seems to have come about from the Dublin III Regulations, however, there is no such statement. The country responsible for processing a claim is based on a hierarchy of reasons, of which “first port” is the lowest.

It is probably worth mentioning at this point that the Dublin III Regulations apply to the enforcement of how states process claims, rather than the rights guaranteed in both the Refugee Convention and case law of an asylum seeker to choose their own safe country.

Now, under the UK’s Immigration Rules Part 11, relevant to asylum, the UK has set rules for when and where it can deport asylum seekers, which includes “safe countries”. This is secondary, however, once again to international law.

This means that not only are small boat crossing necessary, but also asylum seekers have every right to be here.

In the case of the Brook House protest, there is the additional aspect of psychological trauma which those the Home Office was declaring it wanted to deport today face.

Article 3 of the Human Rights Act prohibits deportation or extradition (being sent to another country to face criminal charges) if there is a real risk you will face torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in the country concerned.

Knowingly deporting asylum seekers with psychological issues to deter other asylum seekers could reasonably be argued to be intimidation in most people’s books. Every bit of the Home Office is abhorrent, but it also risks violating the law.

It should also be pointed out that under UK law someone can be deported if they have a mental health issue, unless they meet certain criteria. These are set deliberately high and may still present a risk to life, with associated risk of violations by the UK.

Crop from the Home Office video. / Twitter – Home Office

“... allowing activist lawyers to delay and disrupt returns.”

Let’s be clear here, there is no sinister plot on the behalf of “activist” lawyers to “spring” people from under the watchful gaze of the noble Home Office. There is, however, the rule of law, and the Home Office seems happy to break it, and blame barristers for upholding it.

Considering how this government has attacked judicial review and legal system in a misguided, at best, belief that it is above the law, it cannot be ruled out that its current rhetoric regarding “activist lawyers” is part of a wider attack on the legal system to remove safeguards.

At this stage it, sadly, doesn’t matter if you support asylum seekers or not. It is a question of whether you believe you personally have the right to hold the government to account and defend your own rights.

Sacrificing them for some could quite literally sacrifice them for all.🔷

Update: The Home Office’s tweet has now been removed. It doesn’t mitigate any damage caused, but at least it is down.

[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 27 August 2020 with the purpose of reaching a larger audience. It has been minorly edited and corrected, and published with the author’s consent. | The author of the tweets writes in a personal capacity.]

(Cover: Adobe Stock/davide bonaldo.)

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