“The stated purpose of first detaining an asylum seeker and then returning them to their country of origin or transferring them to a third country is to deny asylum to irregular arrivals,” Assistant High Commissioner Gillian Triggs said in a statement.
This, according to the UNHCR text, violates the international convention aimed at protecting these peoples, which has been in force since 1951, and may cause refugees to return to their countries of origin.
According to UNHCR’s basic principles of international solidarity and responsibility of the 1951 Convention, restricting access to asylum applications only to people arriving by means deemed “safe and legal” is inconsistent.
UNHCR was also skeptical of the UK government’s announced deal with Albania, which London aims to reduce the flow of undocumented Albanian migrants into British territory.
Yet according to the UNHCR report, “some countries do not object to being designated as places of safe origin (…), but this designation does not lead to the formal refusal of asylum applications based on origin”.
However, UNHCR said it “shares the United Kingdom’s concern with the influx of undocumented people across the English Channel”, which has doubled in the past two years, with the main users of the route being precisely those of Albanian origin.
Earlier today, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak pledged to delay processing illegal immigrants by the end of next year, announcing a deal with Albania to repatriate its nationals.
In a statement to parliament, Sunak pledged to double the number of staff and halve the cost of accommodation for asylum seekers currently staying in hotels using former holiday centres, student accommodation and military facilities.
“We will be tough, but fair,” he said, announcing that the deal with Albania would allow for the deportation of “thousands” of Albanians who came to the country illegally in the coming months.
The British government wants to send police officers to Tirana airport and tighten requirements for those who claim to be victims of modern slavery.
London received assurances from the Albanian side that the victims would be protected.
The immigration issue is particularly sensitive for the Conservative government, which pledged to “take back control” of borders during the ‘Brexit’ campaign.
According to UK Home Office figures, 143,000 asylum applications are pending. About 100,000 of these have been outstanding for more than six months, three times the number three years ago.
Since the start of this year, almost 45,000 migrants have made the dangerous crossing of the English Channel in flimsy small boats, a figure that is expected to rise to 30,000 by 2021.
A third of them, nearly thirteen thousand, come from Albania, a “safe and prosperous European country,” Sunak argued, which is why he announced this “enhanced cooperation agreement” today.
The British prime minister was also committed to resuming plans to resettle asylum seekers who came to the UK illegally to Rwanda, suspended after an intervention by the European Court of Human Rights.
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