Proposed changes to the UK immigration system will result in asylum-seeking children in Northern Ireland being traumatised and curtail their rights, it has been warned.
Announced in the Queen’s speech this week, the Government plans to bring legislation to “establish a fairer immigration system that strengthens the United Kingdom’s borders and deters criminals who facilitate dangerous and illegal journeys”.
The new plans would see those arriving in the UK via ‘unauthorised routes’ denied an automatic right to asylum. Instead they will be regularly assessed for removal to safe countries which they passed on their way through to get to the UK.
Maria McCloskey, an immigration solicitor at the Children’s Law Centre, said the proposed plans send a “horse and cart through children’s rights and protections’, adding that they run contrary to international law.
“The general tone and intent of the sweeping changes is deeply concerning. There is a well-established international framework for providing sanctuary and security to asylum seekers and the UK Government is proposing a seismic shift away from this,” she said.
“The continued assertion that routes are illegal, when it is well established that this is in fact contrary to the Refugee Convention, is troubling. There is also a constant effort to attribute criminality to a group of people who are in fact the victims of criminality. There is no such thing as a good and bad refugee, just people fleeing for safety.”
A Government spokesperson said the plans are “fully in line” with its international and legal obligations.
“People should claim asylum in the first safe country they arrive in rather than making life-threatening journeys to the UK,” they said. “We are reforming the system so it is fair but firm, welcoming those who come to the UK through legal routes while cracking down on criminal gangs that facilitate these dangerous and illegal journeys.”