UK should have a minister for refugees – MPs and peers
The future government of the United Kingdom should create a ministerial post with specific responsibility for refugees, MPs and peers have said.
The cross-party parliamentary group on refugees said thousands of people face homelessness and destitution due to a “two-tier” system, where those brought in through resettlement schemes receive more support than those with refugee status after arriving as asylum seekers.
They argued that refugees should have more help to access English language classes, training, health services and that ministers should change rules that ban asylum seekers from working.
Parliamentarians were particularly critical of the 28-day cut-off for withdrawing government support after an asylum claim is granted, which they argued leads to “stress and despair” among refugees trying to find housing.
The group said the issues were exacerbated by administrative delays, a lack of support for employment and skills and an absence of a UK integration strategy.
"Those refugees who have come through the asylum route will have faced the same persecution and violence as those who are resettled,” the report said.
"That two refugees who could have fled from the same country, the same town, even the same neighbourhood could have such different experiences of what it means to be a refugee in the UK is unacceptable."
The BBC reports that more than 50,000 refugees have arrived in Britain as asylum seekers since 2012, while fewer than 10,000 people have come in through resettlement programmes in the same period.
According to the all-party parliamentary group, a minister for refugees would ensure there is focus on the issue in government and would be able to oversee the UK’s integration strategy.
"Creating a two-tier system for refugees, loading the dice against people who come here to build a new life, is not just the wrong thing to do, but a costly missed opportunity for Britain,” said Labour MP Thangam Debbonaire, chairwoman of the group.
Ms Debbonaire said most refugees want to contribute to the UK before returning when conflict is over in their home country.
"These are often skilled professionals and, by definition, they all have strength and determination to offer," she added.
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesperson Brian Paddick said: “This reports shows that government policies are letting down some of the most vulnerable people in our society. Refugees have much to give to our communities but are being prevented from doing so.
“Instead of being given support and opportunities to integrate, refugees who have fled unimaginable horrors are being left homeless and destitute. Whoever is in government after the election should ensure that for all refugees, no matter how they arrived in the UK, protection means protection.”