The Home Office is looking to end the current system which reunites asylum-seeking children with their families if a no-deal Brexit goes through.
The Dublin Regulation is a European law that sets out which EU Member State is responsible for examining asylum applications. Part of the Dublin scheme enables family reunification, but if the UK leaves the EU without a deal then the Dublin Regulation will no longer apply to the UK and it will no longer have to adhere to the scheme.
The UK is currently set to leave the EU on 31 October 2019, with or without a deal. The government has reportedly told the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR that if no Brexit deal is agreed, then no new applications made under the Dublin Regulation after 1 November 2019 will be considered.
The UN’s refugee agency has briefed the government on how to move forward and warned that the Home Office has a responsibility to protect asylum seekers, particularly vulnerable children.
We know that if the political will is there, swift and safe transfers are possible; a no-deal Brexit does not mean transfers must stop.
Beth Gardiner-Smith, chief executive of Safe Passage International
“[We understand] that if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the Dublin Regulation, which allows for the transfer of asylum-seeking children and adults within the EU to join family members, will no longer apply to the UK,” a spokesman for the UNHCR said.
“UNHCR urges the UK government and its European partners to work together to ensure that appropriate arrangements remain in place for asylum seekers, refugees and stateless people.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said that “cooperation will continue” when it comes to asylum seekers.
“That is why we have taken proactive action to ensure that whatever the circumstances, ‘Dublin’ requests relating to family reunification that have not been resolved on the date we leave [the EU] will continue to be considered under existing rules,” they added.
A Rush Of Applications
Image Credit: Flickr / Steve Evans.
With less than two months before Brexit, lawyers are rushing to complete applications before the cut off date.
One lawyer, Efi Stathopoulou, said that often many asylum-seeking children face exploitation during migration and, without a solid promise from authorities that they will be safely reunited with family, they are more likely to try and enter the UK using unsafe passages.
“Children come here very afraid. There have been cases where it was very obvious they were being exploited. Without the possibility of a safe way to reach the UK, these young people will simply vanish to try to cross the Channel at Calais on lorries or boats.”
Without the possibility of a safe way to reach the UK, these young people will simply vanish to try to cross the Channel at Calais on lorries or boats.
Efi Stathopoulou, lawyer
The chief executive of Safe Passage International, Beth Gardiner-Smith, added that the consequences would be “fatal” if the government did not protect family reunification.
“Too often children risk their lives on lorries and dinghies because the legal process is taking too long. If they lose that right altogether, these dangerous journeys will only increase.
“We know that if the political will is there, swift and safe transfers are possible; a no-deal Brexit does not mean transfers must stop.”
A Right To Reunite?
Image Credit: Flickr.
In 2012, the European Court of Human Rights held that the UK Government’s refusal to allow the family reunion of a refugee and his wife under relevant immigration rules discriminated against the refugee on the basis of his immigration status, read in conjunction with his right to respect for private and family life.
The right to respect for family life supporting family reunification in immigration matters is paramount to many refugees. But the Home Office has come under fire from commentators who criticise the processes that migrants and asylum-seekers must go through. Part of the criticism concerns the hostile environment – a set of policies introduced in 2012 under Theresa May when she acted as Home Secretary.
The set of administrative and legislative measures making up the hostile environment were designed to make staying in the UK as difficult as possible for people who do not have leave to remain – and to force them to leave voluntarily.
With questions over Britain’s participation in the Dublin regime following Brexit, there is a concern that many migrants and families will struggle to realise the rights set out in the Human Rights Convention, which are given effect in UK law under the Human Rights Act 1998.
Want to learn more on this topic?
- Read reports about living conditions in an asylum seeker ‘guesthouse’.
- Learn more about the hostile environment policy.
- Read about the rights of children seeking asylum.