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UK government explores processing asylum claims overseas

UK government explores processing asylum claims overseas

According to documents seen by the UK’s Guardian newspaper, the UK government has asked Foreign Office officials to consider the option of sending asylum seekers to detention facilities overseas for processing in the style of Australia’s Papua New Guinea and Nauru facilities.  

Suggestions that centers could be constructed on the south Atlantic islands of Ascension and St Helena were reportedly followed up by proposals to hold refugees in Moldova, Morocco, or Papua New Guinea, or even on disused ferries floating off the UK coast.

Pieter Bevelander writes in IZA World of Labor that “[a]ccording to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the number of refugees on the move, that is, forcibly displaced persons, has crossed the 70 million mark, roughly the population of the UK. Civil war, international conflicts, ethnic conflicts, and human rights abuses are the main causes of this movement.”

Bevelander reminds us, however, that “[o]nly a small portion of the world’s refugees has managed to seek asylum in developed countries and find some kind of sanctuary.”

Australia’s system, estimated to cost £7.2bn a year, is based on migrants being intercepted outside Australian waters, allowing Australia to claim no immigration obligations for individuals. It has attracted criticism from, among others, human rights groups and the United Nations.

The UK proposals would involve relocating asylum seekers who have already arrived in the UK.

A representative from the opposition Labour Party described the idea as “inhumane, completely impractical and wildly expensive.”

A source from the Home Office said “… we are developing plans to reform policies and laws around illegal migration and asylum to ensure we are able to provide protection to those who need it, while preventing abuse of the system and the criminality associated with it.”

Bevelander, writing about the integration of refugees, says that “[a] faster integration process would significantly benefit refugees and their new host countries.” The gap in labor market integration experienced by refugees means that host countries are missing out on the potential economic gains offered by refugee immigration. “In turn,” he says “this gap can fuel poverty and segregation among refugees and increase societal costs,” which “could reduce host countries’ willingness to accept new flows of refugees.” Bevelander says one of the methods policymakers can use for inducing faster economic integration of immigrants “is to offer early introduction assistance packages that include screening of health level and possible remedy, training in language and specific labor market aspects, and resettlement in robust labor market regions.”

Read more IZA World of Labor articles on migration policy.