Priti Patel’s New Plan for Immigration is a pointless, unworkable, expensive, illegal, and inhumane PR stunt.
First published in May 2021.
Just from a cursory reading before the deep dive, I can confirm that “accessible web version” is the only “accessible” thing about the New Plan for Immigration.
Some things never change.
Straight out of the gate, we have got the standard line of immigration being all about how migrants’ are an “economic resource”, with the added fun focus on “digital”.
There is nothing this government doesn’t seem to think “digital” won’t solve.
The objectives really are something special.
This is probably a good time to bring up the not insignificant matter of UNHCR taking the fairly rare step of admonishing the UK government for its plan and the harm they will cause.
Seeing as a lot of Patel’s argument for the plan hangs on it being to deter traffickers and “save lives”, it is definitely worth pointing out that smugglers and traffickers actually benefit from tougher borders and these plans will only increase that.
My personal opinion on this? You don’t make a system fairer by removing people’s access to it or their rights under it. You also can’t encourage people to come and support your economy when you treat them as a disposable resource.
Ask yourself if you would accept it yourself.
While finding the right to rent “justified” on appeal, the High Court acknowledged that it was open to discrimination. Discrimination prevents people accessing support, which drives them into the hands of those who will exploit them.
This isn’t complicated, and relates as much to the Home Office plans for asylum seekers as it does to other migrants. When you make it harder for people to access ‘official’ support they end up being targeted by those who will exploit them in a multitude of ways.
Two phrases which should terrify anyone looking at government policy, “we will look at” and “simplify”. Considering the UK’s failure to abide by existing family reunification or resettlement, this shows they are implementing a plan without having a plan.
What is noticeable throughout is that despite being one of the three objectives, there is nothing in the plan which would actually deter criminal gangs. Indeed it seems on the balance of evidence that it will create a never ending “supply” of people for them to exploit.
There is a lot of talk about “illegal entry” etc, yet refugees are permitted under international law to enter a country by any means necessary without penalty (Article 31 of the 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees) and approximately 82% of undocumented migrants enter UK legally.
The last year has seen overall numbers of asylum seekers drop yet an increase in those crossing the channel. One thing we can take away from this is that when you restrict routes you drive people into taking more dangerous ones.
The New Plan for Immigration may play well to the Conservatives’ base, but as a general rule attitudes to immigration are softening and don’t factor particularly highly in people’s voting intentions (9%).
A cynic might argue that by creating a plan which violates multiple laws and actually exacerbates the power of criminal gangs, Priti Patel is deliberately creating a never ending scapegoat and trying to get immigration back as a focus for voters to distract from other things.
All we can know for sure though, is that this new plan won’t do anything positive to fix what is undeniably a “broken system”. Neither the asylum system nor the immigration system are broken because of migrants though. They are broken because of the Home Office.
Any serious plan to fix both systems starts with making them more, not less, accessible. Opening safe routes and better options for regularisation. Anything less is a waste of time and money. It costs £13,354 per person for deportation flights.
The net resource cost of immigration enforcement in the UK for 2019/20 was £392 million. There is no way that increasing enforcement and deportations leads to a drop in this figure.
Now imagine what else it could be spent on, or at least part of it.
The whole plan is a PR stunt. It is pointless. It is unworkable. It is expensive. It is illegal. It is inhumane. It does however shift attention away from the real issues facing the UK.
Issues which could be greatly benefited from an investment of at least part of £392 million.
- New plan for immigration: legal migration and border control | Home Office
- UNHCR deeply concerned at discriminatory two-tier UK asylum plans, urges rethink | UNHCR
- ‘We thank your government for our full pockets’ – Calais smugglers speak | The Guardian
- The loss of family reunion rights will lead to enormous suffering for child refugees | The Guardian
- We Are Here: Routes to regularisation for the UK’s undocumented population | JCWI
- Asylum applications fall in 2020, whilst the number of people awaiting a decision reaches a new high | Refugee Council
- Ipsos MORI Issues Index: Concern about COVID-19 remains at record levels, despite falling infections | Ipsos MORI
- Home Office spends £13,354 per person on deportation flights | The Guardian
- Immigration Enforcement | NAO
- 1951 UN Convention relating to the Status of Refugees | UNHCR
▫ Dan Sohege, Human rights advocate, international refugee law specialist, immigration economist, charity fundraising professional and Director of Stand For All.
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[This piece was first published as a Twitter thread and turned into the above article on 25 May 2021 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: Flickr/Number 10. - Priti Patel speaks in Cabinet. | 1 December 2020. / Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.)