REFUGEES AND ASYLUM SEEKERS Edmund Rice International, May the 4th, Room XXVI

The side event organized by “Edmund Rice International” outlined the situation of the UK policies in the same day in which the UK underwent the UPR (Universal Periodic Review) at the UN.

EPI’s representatives focused on the conditions of refugees in the UK, starting from the consideration of the programs the government has put in action.

The panelists shown that, with regard to the other European countries, the UK receives only the 5% of the total flow of immigrants, number that will easily allow the improvements needed. Nonetheless, wealthy UK finds itself behind poorer countries in the ranking of European States providing quality support to the refugees. In addition, in 2016, 70% of the requests for asylum were refused, either for the absence of a document recognized or the condition of statelessness.

The accepted refugees, according to the regulations, are granted 28 days of accommodation by the government, after which they are left with no house, no employment aid and no support.

From this analysis, ERI recognized a number of charitable safety nets present in England that help refugees through these hard times. Even so, they found that the majority of asylum seekers are marginalized, constantly on the move, living in a limbo with no security or hope for the future.

In April 2017, the British Red Cross published “Can’t stay, Can’t go”, a Report on the condition of asylum seekers in the UK, highlighting how this condition of uncertainty, lack of legal representation and knowledge of the language, is the cause of enormous distress.

The other Report issued by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG), “Refugees Welcome?”, focused on the absence of real projects and solutions to address the emergency of refugees. In the document, APPG suggests integrative strategies, English language teaching and to prolong to 50 days the governmental accommodation.

These Reports are in line with the intervention made by the EPI and other member States during the UK session at the UPR. They found though that the answers of the Ministry of Justice to the questions do not mirror the actual situation in the UK.

During the UPR pressure was made to ameliorate the conditions of asylum seekers and their transitions into society; at the same time, the panelists stressed, no attention was given to other very serious issues linked: food poverty and homelessness.

The representative of the “Trussel Trust”, for the elimination of food poverty in the UK, reminded that no data nor attention has been given by the government to address the issue of food poverty. Generally caused by benefit changes and delays, this condition could be easily avoided by governmental interventions and programs.

Homelessness in Northern Ireland is another issue very sensitive and not addressed in the UPR nor by the government. “Welcome” organization’s data show grave marginalization of the problem of a small region with a troubled historical background where the condition of homelessness touches 18,628 persons, 52% of which are single male adults.

In conclusion, the welfare reforms and safety net claimed by the Ministry of Justice at the UPR session, according to the representative of Welcome, cannot be found on the ground. Furthermore, the panelists find necessary for the government to recognize organizations as more than safety net and to implement its project in order to reach the standards set in the international documents that the UK signed.

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Beatrice Bilotti

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