Rescuing a proud tradition
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
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
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
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
Find out more about asylum
UNHCR: The 1951 Convention
Refugee Council: The Truth about Asylum
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