Treatment of asylum seekers in UK must be in line with international law, says UN

The UK should ensure its ‘treatment of asylum seekers complies with international law’, members of the UN Human Rights Council have said.

They made the recommendation while highlighting plans to send migrants to Rwanda as they reviewed the UK’s human rights record on Thursday.

During the periodic review, a process that takes place every four years, the Netherlands said the government should “revoke parts of the migration economic development partnership that do not comply with the 1951 Convention on the refugees”.

New Zealand called on the UK to ensure that its “treatment of asylum seekers is consistent with its humanitarian responsibilities and commitments under international human rights law and international refugee law”.

Justice Minister Mike Freer, representing the UK at the Geneva session, said he was “absolutely committed to protecting human rights at home and abroad”, adding: “This commitment has not changed”.

The UK has a “long and proud tradition” of providing refuge for those fleeing persecution, he said, but the immigration and asylum system has been “under significant strain” over the past the past decade and continues to face “enormous” challenges.

It comes as the chief border and immigration inspector called on the government to ‘give some certainty’ to asylum seekers by speeding up approvals instead of putting them up in motels – saying that ‘whatever be the number of stars it can have”, temporary accommodation is “dark”.

David Neal, a retired Royal Military Police officer, called the current backlog of cases ‘inexcusably high’ and said it was ‘in everyone’s interests in this country’ to get emergency asylum housing people.

Writing in The Times, Mr Neal, who was appointed by Priti Patel when she was Home Secretary, acknowledged the Home Office was showing leadership in tackling the crisis, but the decision-making struggled to “strike a balance between more speed and quality”.

Low morale and unstable management within teams handling asylum seeker cases further undermined performance, he added.

“The reality of being housed in temporary accommodation, no matter how many stars it may have, is grim,” Mr Neal said.

“The negative impact on mental health as well as the waste of human capital is heartbreaking.

“As the numbers and costs increase daily, expediting decisions on asylum claims must be the medium-term goal of any government, giving hope to legitimate claimants and some level of certainty to tens of thousands of people stuck in limbo”.

Mr Neal called on the government to increase the productivity of approving asylum applications, adding that decision makers were currently averaging 1.3 approvals a week.

“It is in everyone’s interest in this country to give asylum seekers some certainty, to reduce the inexcusably high backlog of cases, to get people out of emergency asylum accommodation and to let them begin to rebuild their lives.

Mr Neal had previously told MPs that the conditions he faced at the Manston treatment center in Kent had left him “speechless”.

It is in everyone’s interest in this country to give asylum seekers some certainty… and let them begin to rebuild their lives.

David Neal, Chief Border Inspector

There were around 4,000 migrants in the facility at the time, more than double its capacity.

As of 8am on Wednesday, the government said the number of people at the facility had fallen to 1,147.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman is under increased pressure to fix the UK’s ‘broken’ asylum system, with the government currently spending £6.8m a day to house migrants in hotels – at an average cost of £150 per person per night.

Home Office figures released in August show asylum spending rose to £2.1billion in 2021-22 – the highest on record.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said he and the home secretary were working ‘day and night’ to end the ‘unacceptable increase in Channel crossings’ as he continued to face questions about his nomination.

Ms Braverman has been criticized by some opposition MPs for inflaming the situation after saying the government was committed to ‘stopping the invasion on our south coast’.

Almost 40,000 migrants have arrived in the UK after crossing the English Channel so far this year. But there have been no crossings yet in November in bad weather, leaving the provisional total for 2022 so far at 39,913.

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