Rescuing a proud tradition of sanctuary
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Rescuing a proud tradition of sanctuary.

The UK has a proud record of providing sanctuary to those fleeing persecution. From the Huguenots fleeing France to the Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia, Britain has been a safe haven to the present day.

After the Second World War, shamed by the fact that Jews fleeing Germany had been denied protection and sent back to the Nazis, the victor nations established a system by which those facing persecution would be able to seek protection in safe countries. This was the basis of our modern asylum system – the 1951 Convention on Refugees.

Since that time, the 1951 Convention has saved millions of lives. It grants refugee status if a person,
"… owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail himself of the protection of that country…"
Article 1, The 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees

The Commission believes that the UK has a duty to provide sanctuary. We believe that most British people agree with our international obligations under the 1951 Convention and would want to offer protection to those who need it. At a recent hearing of the parliamentary Joint Committee on Human Rights, the editors of the Daily Mail and Daily Express - fierce critics of the asylum system - recognised this duty.

But the principle of providing protection to refugees is under threat. Far-right groups whip up fears about asylum seekers. Elements of the media and public opinion seem hostile to asylum seekers themselves. Politicians raise questions about the suitability of the 1951 Convention and the concept of asylum itself. “Asylum” has become a political football and “asylum seeker” a term of abuse.

The concept of asylum needs to be rescued. Flaws in the system need to be addressed. Citizens need to have confidence that the asylum system treats those seeking sanctuary fairly and humanely, but that it is also robust in dealing with those whose claims have failed.

The Independent Asylum Commission aims to take a fresh and impartial look at the system and make credible recommendations for reform that will ensure that we continue our proud history of sanctuary while restoring public confidence in the system.

Read our past newsletters

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

Find out more about asylum

UNHCR: The 1951 Convention

Refugee Council: The Truth about Asylum

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