Tuesday, 23 January 2018
Reception Conditions Directive: Motion
We need to change our entire refugee asylum system. For many years it has been need of reform because compared with neighbouring similar countries, we are remarkably negative and restrictive in our assessment of asylum applications. Our percentages of refusals are a multiple of those in similar countries.
The direct provision system is incredibly expensive in terms of the amount of money we have to spend. Even the deportation process is unclear, not effective and deeply destructive to people who are caught in the middle of it in terms of their health and welfare. We are implementing a system that is inhumane and wrong, as the Supreme Court recognised. The delay in reacting to that Supreme Court judgment and the fact that we have a two-phase response without any real clarity in terms of the end point reflects that lack of priority, attention, concern and care within the Minister's Department regarding this issue.
We also need to carry the public with us on this issue. I believe the public are with us in recognising that the current direct provision system is wrong but we need to get people in the process working, and have the public with them on that.
I read the Minister's contribution in terms of the example of Syrian refugees. He said that under the relocation they will be covered because their cases are determined within three months. My experience of refugees within that programme is that they are not being determined within three months and they are being maintained in the same difficult system where their health and well-being are being undermined.
The way we are introducing that scheme and working with it, in that their relocation will be to towns which almost by definition will not have huge employment opportunities, will make the problem worse. We need to approach this not just in terms of how we get those refugees and others working but how we can introduce them into a community where everyone is working.
It would work in a kind of collective way with public support for what was being done. We should use it as an opportunity to get public support for getting our asylum seekers working by engaging in a creative scheme where those towns which have been selected are given huge support to get employment working across the board. It is that sort of innovative, creative big thinking that we need but we see none of it in what has happened over the past nine months or the years preceding them. That needs to change. While we support opting into the directive to help us do that, the Minister must use the interim period to be really ambitious about what we do and how we manage our asylum process.