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Home Office ‘hides’ its own study on why refugees come to UK | Immigration and asylum

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The Home Office is covering up its own research into why refugees and asylum seekers come to the UK because ministers “know their arguments don’t hold up,” charities say.

Authorities are refusing to disclose evidence as to whether so-called ‘pull factors’ play a role in asylum seekers traveling to the UK.

Thursday, Deputy Prime Minister Dominic Raab Talk about “Reducing the pull factor” in an attempt to justify the government’s controversial plans for offshore asylum processing centers in Albania. Home Secretary Chris Philp asserted that accepting asylum seekers who have traveled across Europe “creates a pull factor where migrants are incentivized to undertake dangerous and illegal journeys”.

Yet when the Home Office was asked to provide evidence to back up his claims, he refused. A Freedom of Information response dated October 28 said the material could not be released because it was “likely to interfere with the free and frank provision of advice and the free and frank exchange of views for any purpose. of deliberation “.

Sophie McCann, advocacy officer at Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) UK, accused ministers of knowing their arguments were unfounded. McCann said: “Ministers withhold evidence that is central to their argument about the need to target refugees and asylum seekers with inhumane ‘deterrence’ measures.

“The ministers refuse to disclose the evidence they have on the existence or not of such a pull factor.

McCann added, “The reality is that the ‘pull factors’ are a myth – people fleeing persecution or conflict need no additional incentive to seek safety. It’s hard to see why the government would refuse to share evidence that supports its plans – the only conclusion to be drawn is that they know their arguments don’t hold up.

Previous Home Office research on asylum seekers’ decision-making seems to undermine the pull factor argument in favor of tougher policies. He said: “They [asylum seekers] are guided more by officers, the presence or absence of family and friends, language and perceived cultural affinities than by a careful examination of asylum policies or a rational evaluation of the social benefits offered.

It follows a report by the Refugee Council last week which highlighted misleading statements about asylum seekers by Home Secretary Priti Patel.

The analysis, based in part on data from the Home Office, shows that nearly two-thirds of people crossing the Channel in small boats are considered genuine refugees and allowed to stay – contradicting claims by Patel that 70% of small boat arrivals “are not genuine”. asylum seekers”.

More than 23,000 people have arrived in the UK this year in small boats, almost three times the total of around 8,500 in 2020. But the total number of arrivals is still relatively small, certainly compared to the number. almost 20 years ago, when UK asylum claims reached 84,132.

Still, there are signs that the issue is turning into a political headache for Boris Johnson and Patel. The Home Secretary has staked her reputation on reducing arrivals by boat, but also seems unwilling to allow refugees to continue to travel to the UK.

Experts also say boat arrivals have increased largely because the government has closed other entry routes, such as ferries, due to heightened security measures.

Meanwhile, more than 100 leaders of human rights and anti-slavery groups will write to lawmakers this week urging them to remove or change parts of Patel’s border bill to avoid consequences. ” catastrophic ”for victims of human trafficking. The bill, currently under consideration in parliament, is designed to address concerns about asylum, but its provisions will also make sweeping changes to the way modern slavery is approached. The letter argues that the amalgamation of the two will have “unintended negative consequences” for victims of trafficking and slavery and undermine the UK’s position as a world leader in addressing this issue.

Tamara Barnett of the Human Trafficking Foundation, who coordinated the joint letter: “This bill will lead to fewer prosecutions against real criminals, while those who really need support, including children, will be rejected by the new system. . Members of Parliament urgently need to amend this bill before it is too late.

A spokesperson for the Interior Ministry said: “The Nationality and Borders Bill will fix the failing asylum system so that it is fair but firm, helping those who really need it, while stopping those who abuse the system. “