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    What the Headlines Don't Say: Truth Behind UK's 'Shameful' Immigration Bill

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    As Britain's immigration bill becomes law, how does this new legislation actually impact refugees and migrants?

    In a statement on 16 May, 2016 Angelina Jolie-Pitt, the actress and UN Refugee Special Envoy, addressed the lack of support international law is providing to refugees and migrants. Jolie-Pitt said that there was a fear factor and a race for countries to compete against each other in protecting their own interest.  

    These comments by Angelina Jolie-Pitt, come shortly after the Refugee Council released a report titled, 'The Immigration Bill: behind the headlines'. The blog by the Refugee Council, looks at the latest legislation from the UK, which will become law this week.

    Jon Featonby, Refugee Council's Parliamentary Manager, believes that the Government has finally offered protection for some of the stranded refugees, but that a deeper look at the bill and its implications is needed.

    "It's a good time to take a step back and look at what else is in this Bill, the vast majority of which is aimed at creating, in the Government's own words, 'a hostile environment' for migrants, including asylum seekers," said Jon Featonby.

    In his blog, Featonby documents the oversight that the government has made in protecting the most vulnerable, one such issue has come from the fact that the bill will change the status of asylum seekers awaiting a decision on their application.

    For example, currently if a refugee is still waiting on a decision on their asylum application, they are granted "temporary admission"; the new law however changes this, no longer will asylum seekers be temporary admitted, instead they will be on "immigration bail." Featonby believes that applying the word "bail" has associations with criminal activity.

    "While there aren't really any differences in the two terms practically, associating the process of applying for asylum, the criminal terminology of 'bail' is unacceptable. And the fact that it doesn't make any practical difference to the Home Office makes it even more distasteful," Jon Featonby said.

    This is not the only obvious oversight as far as the Refugee Council as concerned, the Bill means that anyone who has an unsuccessful asylum application, will have up to 90 days to leave the country, this includes those with children. After this point all support and accommodation will be taken away.

    The Government originally wanted it to be 28 days, however pressure meant they had to change it to 90.

    There are some safeguards in place for those refugees who can not leave the UK for medical reasons, for Featonby however this does not go far enough, he said:

    "Many asylum seekers have been in the UK for several years, and may also be worried about their safety should they be returned, we are concerned that families will be left homeless and destitute."

    The Refugee Council have also drawn reference to unaccompanied children and the lack of support given to them.

    The headlines of course, focused on the UK Government's decision not to provide help to 3,000 lone children, then their subsequent U-turn on the decision, which led to the Dubs Amendment. However most of the headlines have neglected to mention the fact that support for lone children will cease once they reach the age of 18. Local authorities will no longer be obliged to help and assist them once they turn 18-years-old, leaving them in a potentially desperate situation, especially those who have been tortured by war, the memories of which can be lasting. 

    Finally, the Refugee Council have looked at the lack of support given to families separated by war, the law has changed to accommodate reuniting spouses who have been separated, but it does not take into account children under the age of 18, who again will be left behind in war torn countries or in other parts of the EU, and thus leaving them to make the treacherous journey to the UK alone. 

    The refugee council have refused to back down on the issue, and will push this further, Featonby said:

    "We wanted the Government to reverse its shameful policy of not allowing refugee children to apply for their parents to come and join them.  Unfortunately, the Government refused to listen to our arguments and those of many politicians, but we will continue to push them on this so that family members can be together just when they need one another the most."

    In addition to this those asylum seekers who have been waiting longer than six months for a decision will not be allowed to work. This means that many will be reliant on the Home Office for support.

    It is not all doom and gloom however, the Refugee Council, after much pressure from campaigners, those immigrants in detention, will automatically have their case looked at by the courts once they have been in detention for four months. Also pregnant women can only be detained up to 72 hours.  

    "Along with the Dubs Amendment, this offers a glimmer of hope in what is otherwise a largely regressive and un-compassionate piece of legislation," Featonby said.


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