Dear Home Secretary,
The Justice and Peace Commission of the Catholic Diocese of Leeds is alarmed by the proposals for asylum seekers as outlined in the Government’s New Plan for Immigration, which we consider to be unfair and arbitrary.
The major points we object to are:
1. Any Asylum Seeker arriving outside a Government resettlement programme, will be treated as an illegal migrant. They will never be given indefinite leave to remain and it is assumed they will leave at some point.
This disregards the often perilous situations people have fled, is likely to separate families, and is contrary to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights: that everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution.
2. Asylum Seekers will be housed in camps or barracks separate from the community.
This is poor practice leading many to depression, self-harm and suicide. It also isolates asylum seekers from our communities. Through our parishes and community organisations, our Catholic community has welcomed and supported many asylum seekers, valuing the subsequent friendships, and supporting people through the harsh regime of destitution and no recourse to public funds.
3. The proposals state that to speed up court cases only predetermined reports and evidence should be used by agreed parties.
This does not allow for the submission of new evidence or reports and does not specify who ‘the parties’ are. We know of cases where the Home Office has used discredited or out of date reports. This would leave no possibility to challenge them.
4. The Government states anyone not disclosing all the facts of their case immediately will be deemed not credible. Yet we know that disclosing issues of sexuality, rape or torture can be extremely traumatising and often people feel unable to do so in the initial stages. This is especially true in what is often a hostile environment and instead people rely on other facts about their case in the hope that it will be enough before they disclose the full extent of their difficulties.
It is a flawed approach which makes sweeping assumptions about people’s ability to relate difficult and disturbing information. Often people are fearful that the same prejudices that faced at home might be present here.
These proposals demonise and stigmatise vulnerable people, appear to be motivated by a lack of compassion and generosity, and are contrary to Catholic social teaching. We therefore urge you to abandon them.