Asylum and borders

"Everyone has the right to seek and to enjoy in other countries asylum from persecution."

- Article 14 of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights

In 1954 the UK signed up to the Refugee Convention, and today almost every country is bound by this international law.

Under the law:

  • Anyone in the UK has the right to seek asylum
  • The UK Government has an obligation not forcibly to return anyone to a country where they have a genuine fear of being persecuted

The right to seek asylum is completely separate to the issue of immigration:

  • There is no human right to immigration, so fair and non-discriminatory limits can be placed on economic migration
  • But the right to asylum can never be limited

Human rights, including the right not to be subjected to degrading treatment, to a private and family life, to free expression and protest etc. apply to all human beings. These rights do not depend on citizenship. Some of the UK's immigration and asylum policies have undermined these basic rights, including:

  • Laws passed following 11 September 2001, which have now been repealed, allowed for the indefinite detention without charge of foreign nationals
  • Policies denying support and the right to work to asylum claimants leading to destitution and hardship
  • The unnecessary and inhumane detention of men, women and children for extended periods
  • The ‘fast track’ system of asylum determination which results in applicants being detained pending extremely fast determinations of their claim, resulting in sometimes complex and sensitive claims being unfairly refused
  • Previously named “ID cards for foreign (non-EU) nationals”, which served to exacerbate racial and ethnic tensions
  • The eBorders scheme which allows for vast amounts of information about all people entering and exiting the country to be retained for years on a Government database
  • The policy of depriving legal aid to most people seeking to challenge an immigration decision, including refugees seeking to be reunited with family members
  • Moves to dramatically increase obstacles to family migration to the UK, no matter how genuine the family. This includes a restriction which prevents those on low incomes, including British citizens, from bringing non EU foreign national family members to the UK
  • In 2016, the Immigration Act was passed - forcing landlords to check the passports of tenants, and making it a criminal offence to drive while an illegal migrant. These policies are part of a wider Government strategy of creating a "hostile environment" for illegal migrants in the UK.
  • From 2016, schools have been required to obtain nationality and birthplace data on their pupils in order to help the Home Office with deportations of families without the proper papers. Liberty is calling on parents to boycott this school census.