Freedom from Torture has produced* this resource to help guide you through the New Plan for Immigration consultation and our suggested responses. This may help you to formulate your own answers or you can choose to copy these answers.
There are some questions where we have chosen to decline to answer as we disagree with the formulation of the question and would not want our answers to be misunderstood.
*With credit to Amnesty International UK for producing the original guide.
This consultation is not fit for purpose. However, it's important that organisations and members of the public take part in the consultation as the proposal could see significant changes to the UK’s immigration, asylum and nationality laws, which could be even more detrimental to survivors of torture.
? How to sign up to take part in the consultation:
- Visit https://newplanforimmigration.com/en/. Click “sign up” at the top of the webpage.
- After signing up, you will be asked why you are taking part in the consultation. If true, select that you're responding as a member of the public, and you will enter the consultation 'platform'.
- The ‘platform’ has several documents, including the New Plan for Immigration, and two separate online surveys for the public consultation: one is called the New Plan for Immigration: Main questionnaire, the other is called Further detailed questions on the New Plan for Immigration.
- For each survey, click on the relevant ‘Take the survey’ link; or select the relevant link from the drop down options available in ‘Projects’ at the top of the page.
IMPORTANT: You don’t need to answer every question – you can decline to answer and move on to the next question. To do this, use the arrow at the bottom of the web page.
If you are short on time, please focus on answering the questions highlighted with an exclamation point >> ❗ << throughout this guide.
SUGGESTED RESPONSES: 1st SURVEY
?1st SURVEY: Main Questionnaire
❗️QUESTION 1❗️: The Foreword
Suggested response: STRONGLY OPPOSE.
CHAPTER 2: Whether and how the UK will in future provide asylum to women, men and children fleeing conflict and persecution
Suggested response: DECLINE TO ANSWER.
? The way these questions are presented is misleading. They only allow you to tick pre-prepared boxes which indicate strength of agreement or disagreement with the statements made and not challenge the proposal itself. These questions should not be answered to avoid your answer being misunderstood.
? To avoid complexity you could mark Q6-9 as ‘Please see Question 10’ – and then set out all the points below in answer to ❗️Question 10❗️.
Freedom from Torture suggests that you make the following points:
- The government’s policy confuses safe and legal routes for unaccompanied children seeking asylum to join family in the UK with immigration rules that are not designed or intended for this purpose.
- This confusion applies equally to children who are in the EU and children who are outside the EU. Previously, UK membership of the EU provided a possible safe and legal route for unaccompanied children in the EU to join family members in the UK and claim asylum here with their family.
- The government refers to immigration rules that allow some children to join parents or other family members in the UK. But the rules do not permit this for the purpose of seeking asylum.
- The proposals make no provision for people who currently make dangerous journeys to claim asylum in the UK. The government’s policy position generally remains that nobody can claim asylum in the UK unless they get here first; and its rules make no provision to permit someone to travel to the UK for the purpose of making such a claim.
- The government highlights those permitted to come to the UK safely and legally via refugee family reunion visas, but its proposals would withdraw this possibility from many people. The proposals expressly intend to avoid or delay granting asylum to many refugees in the UK. Their family members will, therefore, only be able to reunite with them if they rely on dangerous journeys and smugglers.
CHAPTER 3 concerns proposed changes to British nationality law
QUESTIONS 11-14: Freedom from Torture has no expertise in nationality law so will not be answering these questions. We recommend that you skip these questions.
❗️QUESTIONS 15 TO 19❗️:
Suggested response to all of these questions: NOT AT ALL EFFECTIVE
Suggested response: NOT AT ALL EFFECTIVE (to each of the three parts to Q20).
CHAPTER 5 relates to asylum claims and appeals against refusal of asylum
❗️QUESTIONS 21 AND 22❗️:
Suggested response: NOT AT ALL EFFECTIVE (to both questions)
Suggested response: DON’T KNOW.
It is not sufficiently clear what is proposed. The question relates to a vague proposal to consider introducing a right of appeal against removal or deportation for people in what are said to be ‘certain Modern Slavery cases’.
QUESTION 24 (SEVERAL PARTS):
? The proposals presented here are quite vague making it hard to assess what is truly intended and what the effect would be. Many of the proposals are not new, would introduce complexity to the current system, and seem to be designed only to restrict access to justice for people in the asylum system.
The proposal to improve access to legal advice has real potential to assist people and improve the asylum processes but a lot depends on the detail of the advice offer.
First point on early legal advice: ‘FAIRLY EFFECTIVE’.
CHAPTER 6 concerns victims of human trafficking and other serious exploitation
? We do not consider there is sufficient information for us to assess the proposals to which it relates.
Freedom from Torture does, however, have serious reservations about what may be intended here. The proposals give the impression that the underlying intention is to make the system for providing protection and assistance to victims of trafficking, slavery and other exploitation less accessible to victims. Freedom from Torture would not support that.
Suggested response: DECLINE TO ANSWER
CHAPTER 7 concerns the journeys most people who receive asylum in the UK are forced to make
❗️QUESTIONS 26 TO 31❗️:
Suggested response: NOT AT ALL EFFECTIVE (TO ALL SIX QUESTIONS)
QUESTIONS 32 AND 33
Suggested response: DECLINE TO ANSWER.
CHAPTER 8 concerns the UK’s deportation system, used to expel people who have committed criminal offences
QUESTIONS 34 TO 38:
Suggested response: NOT AT ALL EFFECTIVE (all five questions)
Suggested response: DISAGREE.
? There is no good purpose in doing what is proposed. It is already the case that compliance with immigration processes is taken into consideration in relation to whether or not a person should be granted immigration bail.
Suggested response: Question 40 to Question 44: SKIP QUESTIONS
? These questions relate to public sector equality duty and other general questions and are not suitable questions for a consultation of this type. Open consultation is not an appropriate, effective or lawful way to conduct proper equalities impact assessments of its proposals.
? This question allows you to respond in your own words about the government’s New Plan for Immigration and this consultation. Even a sentence or two explaining what you think is most important would be a valuable contribution and also make clear this is your response with your views.
To help you with your response, you may want to consider including the following overall objections that Freedom from Torture holds:
SUGGESTED RESPONSES: 2nd SURVEY
?2nd SURVEY: Further detailed questions on the New Plan for Immigration
There is an urgent need for fundamental reform of the UK’s asylum system, which will only be further undermined by these proposals. That reform should prioritise the following principles and objectives:
- Enhance the ability of people fleeing war and persecution to seek protection in Britain. People seeking asylum should feel safe when they arrive, and have their refugee applications considered quickly, fairly and efficiently, no matter how they got here.
- Put in place a fairer, faster and more independent system to decide on people’s claims for protection. People claiming asylum should receive high quality legal advice, humane treatment and fast, accurate decisions.
- Ensure that people can live in safety and dignity while waiting for their decision to be accepted as a refugee. They should have a safe and dignified home within a local community, enough food and essentials to live, and the right to work.
- Support refugees to build new futures in Britain as part of their local communities. Policies should support people to realise their full potential and empower them to make a positive contribution to their communities.
- Respect the dignity, liberty and humanity of those found not to be in need of protection. People refused asylum should not be detained and be treated in a safe, dignified and humane way at all times.
- Champion global solidarity and responsibility sharing – the UK should play a role in providing sustainable solutions to forced migration, including through the resettlement of at least 10,000 refugees per year.
CHAPTER 2 concerns whether and how the UK will in future provide asylum to women, men and children fleeing conflict and persecution
Suggested response: DECLINE TO ANSWER
Suggested response: STRONGLY AGREE (to each part of the question)
? The Plan, when looked at as a whole, is a huge backwards step in terms of encouraging and facilitating integration. This will particularly be the case for refugees granted temporary protection Nonetheless, the statements in Question 3 about factors that would help refugees to be secure and integrate are not controversial.
? The question invites responses on how to ‘improve’ the proposals for the UK asylum system. If you choose to answer this question, consider the overall effect of the proposals rather than focusing purely on resettlement proposals. This is because overall the proposals signal a determination to significantly reduce the UK commitment to providing asylum – although the proposals on resettlement could be positive, if the UK significantly increases its resettlement commitment. It is important to note that the UK is a relatively modest provider of asylum (even including its resettlement programme) compared to its European neighbours and many other countries.
In relation to part (a):
- A system that discriminates between refugees based on how they arrived in the UK is unjust and contrary to the UK’s responsibilities under the Refugee Convention.
- Many of those fleeing torture are forced to escape their countries in chaotic and desperate circumstances, that are often well beyond their control. They do not have the time, means or opportunity to secure prior authorisation to enter the UK.
- To create a system whereby those individuals will be forced to wait for many years in order to, or in fact may never, gain secure status in the UK because they did not arrive through resettlement or refugee family reunion, is to subject people who have already suffered torture, and other traumas, to yet more fear and uncertainty.
In relation to part (b):
- Taking a “safe and legal” route to seek protection in the UK is not a viable option for most people who are in need of protection around the world. Resettlement programmes and refugee family reunion schemes will only ever provide a route to safety for a small proportion of the world’s refugees.
- Preventing some refugees from having secure status in the long-term because of how they arrived in the UK, is profoundly unfair and unlikely to deter people making their way to the UK by whatever means they can, when they are fleeing life-threatening situations.
- The likely outcome of the proposed approach is that vulnerable people will be further harmed by chronic uncertainty and reduced rights, which will prevent them from rebuilding their lives. It may compel some to avoid the authorities and leave others in limbo, deprivation and more vulnerable to exploitation and abuse. The UK will also be harmed by this proposal, as it would prevent refugees from integrating and making a positive contribution to society.
- If the UK further avoids its asylum responsibilities, other countries are likely to do the same. Fewer people will find safety elsewhere – and the number of people trying to find safety in the UK may actually increase.
- There is no true commitment to improving protection to refugees in the proposals. Instead there is a determination to dismantle the existing, relatively modest system of protection.
CHAPTER 3 concerns changes to British nationality law
QUESTIONS 5 to 7:
Freedom from Torture will not be answering the questions in this section as we have no expertise in immigration law.
CHAPTER 4 relates to the UK’s asylum system.
- The Government should abandon plans to create a two-tier asylum system (‘a differentiated approach’). It is incredibly unfair to treat refugees differently because of their method of arrival, either while they wait for their status to be recognised or once status is granted.
- A differentiated approach to asylum claims will mean that vulnerable people, including torture survivors, wait even longer for a decision while housed in harmful, inappropriate accommodation. It will force those who have been granted status to live in prolonged fear of return to torture and death, unable to recover from the trauma they have suffered.
- There is no obligation under the Refugee Convention to arrive in a country of sanctuary directly from the country or persecution, or through legal means. In fact, the Refugee Convention stresses the need to protect and not to penalise refugees who have travelled to a country of sanctuary, without prior authorisation and via other countries.
- The Government should do all that it can to ensure every refugee in the UK is safe, integrated and settled as quickly as possible, and able to rebuild their lives in dignity with their loved ones.
- This proposal is incredibly dangerous as it will mean that more refugees are wrongly sent back to torture, persecution and death.
- There's a very good reason why the legal test for asylum claims is ‘reasonable degree of likelihood’: most refugees flee persecution at short notice, with nothing but the shirt on their back. They have no time or opportunity to gather evidence to back up their story. The ‘balance of probabilities’ test is used in civil claims because corroborating evidence is more available in those cases.
- The Government has provided no good reason to raise the legal standard. In fact, the Government should be working harder to tackle the culture of disbelief amongst decision-makers who fail to apply the correct current standard. The percentage of successful appeals demonstrates that people already aren’t receiving protection when they should; in 2019/20, the success rate in asylum appeals was 48%.
- The Windrush scandal showed how the Government wrongly required excessive evidence to prove an entitlement to stay in the UK. This proposal will repeat those errors.
Suggested response: DECLINE TO RESPOND
Ranking these proposals would appear to give support to one or more of them and Freedom from Torture does not support any of them.
Suggested response: NOT AT ALL EFFECTIVE (to each of the four questions).
? This question invites responses on how to ‘improve’ the proposals made for the UK asylum system. However, we advise that you do not suggest that the proposals can or should be improved, and we urge you to call for the proposals to be abandoned.
Suggested response below:
These proposals will harm refugees, undermine the UK asylum system and damage the UK’s global reputation. While it is clear that the UK asylum system should be improved, the rationale behind these proposals is deeply flawed and clearly not based on evidence.
The approach the Government sets out, in particular establishing a differentiated approach to asylum claims, will only cause further harm to and delays for people seeking asylum without addressing any of the issues the Government says it seeks to solve. The proposals also fail to engage meaningfully with the many long-standing issues facing the UK asylum system, and will cause increased harm to people seeking refugee protection.
CHAPTER 5 relates to asylum claims and appeals against refusal of asylum.
Suggested response: DECLINE TO ANSWER.
- The prohibition on refoulement (return to a country where a refugee faces persecution) within the Refugee Convention puts an obligation on the Government to consider ‘fresh claims’ for asylum, and this is an obligation that holds until the very point of departure. The Government cannot propose, as it does here, to restrict access to the asylum process in the name of efficiency without breaching this obligation.
- To help the Government observe this obligation, it already has in place a one-stop process and a variety of controls within the asylum system which aim to increase the efficiency of the procedure. The Government could easily make changes to the current asylum system, including the one-stop process, that would address problems with delay and the quality of decision-making, making it fairer, more consistent and more efficient.
- The number of asylum appeals lodged in the First tier Tribunal has been falling since 2014. The average time taken to determine appeals has also been falling. The number of judicial reviews lodged in the Upper Tribunal has also fallen steeply. There is no evidence to support the Government’s claim that unmeritorious, repeat claims are blocking the system. There is no justification for these proposals.
- One of the main drivers for fresh claims and appeals is the impact of trauma on those seeking asylum and the way that they engage with the process. Refugees’ access to quality legal advice, their ability or willingness to disclose sensitive and traumatic experiences and their capacity to evidence their own claims are often seriously hampered by symptoms of depression, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Victims of trauma, including torture, need time and a sense of safety before they can begin to disclose their experiences.
- Instead of introducing these proposals the Government should: end the use of detention in the asylum system; house asylum seekers in the community; ensure early access to quality legal advice; guarantee the time and stability for asylum seekers to build relationships of trust with key actors; improve the quality of asylum decision-making by strengthening the interview and review processes; and correct refusals before appeal when the decision was clearly mistaken.
- The proposed reforms to instruction for expert evidence in appeals will only reduce the access that torture survivors have to crucial independent expert medical evidence of their experience of torture. These reforms will compromise the independence of the judiciary and deny access to justice for the most vulnerable.
We oppose these proposals and have different proposals to make. We suggest that you either do not answer part (a) or that you insert the following text:
In order to achieve the objectives of greater efficiency and fairness, the Government should pursue the objectives outlined in the answer to Question 1, and make the improvements outlined in Question 17.
Suggested response to part (b):
- There are many reasons why it may not be possible for an individual to present all relevant information in support of their claim at the earliest opportunity. These include not having access to relevant documents or records; delays in accessing suitable legal advice; or being too traumatised to be able to immediately provide all relevant information. The implications of failing to understand these challenges and making the wrong decision are grave, and can mean the difference between life and death. Each allowed asylum appeal is a life saved.
- Instead of seeking to deny torture survivors access to expert evidence, the Government should encourage early access to independent documentation of torture, improve decision-makers’ understanding of expert evidence and engage earlier in the appeals process to review and withdraw refusals where the evidence indicates the appellant will be successful at appeal.
- The public must have confidence that the Government is not acting unlawfully and this can only be achieved if the public can see, in practice, the remedies that exist to protect their rights when they are infringed. Judicial review is that remedy and must be protected. It is a procedure of last resort, designed for use where there is no other means of challenging a decision by a public body.
CHAPTER 6 concerns victims of human trafficking and other serious exploitation.
Much of what is proposed in Chapter 6 is difficult to assess because there is too little detail. One option for responding to this question is to carefully express your support for improved protection and assistance without expressing a position on the government’s specific proposals.
You should be careful to avoid expressing support for proposals that are not clear – this might be done by suggesting ‘improvements’ as invited by part (a) of this question. If you consider proposals not clear enough to assess whether they can be improved or need to be abandoned (and perhaps different proposals made) you may need to say this specifically.
- Local authorities, the police, immigration officers and others would benefit from training to better identify victims of trafficking, slavery or other exploitation. The key purpose of training for ‘first responders’ should be to identify and engage with potential victims in an encouraging, supportive way that will help them seek and receive protection and assistance.
- It is not clear why there needs to be a further consultation on the test by which it is assessed whether someone is a victim of trafficking. It is suggested that the standard of proof needs to be raised. Freedom from Torture is aware of no evidence to support that and fears the result will simply be to exclude more victims from the protection and assistance they need.
- We would support increased support for victims of modern slavery, but whether any proposals would achieve that depends on their substance.
CHAPTER 7 concerns the journeys most people who receive asylum in the UK are forced to make.
These questions concern proposals about civil penalties, including increased fines, for people and businesses in whose transportation people, who do not have permission to enter the UK, are found. There is no consideration of the impact of such penalties in increasing the risks people seeking asylum must face to reach the UK to make their claims, costing lives and exposing people to other harms and abuses.
Question 20 TO 22: DECLINE TO ANSWER
This question provides an opportunity to give a verdict on the overall approach of the UK Government to people smuggling. If you answer this question, you may wish to be careful when answering part (a) to make clear that you are objecting to these proposals (you may suggest completely different proposals or make no alternative proposals).
In relation to part (a), Freedom from Torture suggests making the points listed below:
- The proposals in Chapter 7 fundamentally misunderstand that the reason smuggling exists is because people fleeing torture, violence and other forms of persecution have no other choice but to make journeys that are unauthorised in order to escape.
- People who attempt dangerous journeys do so because these harms are so intolerable it is preferable to risk exploitation or death to try to reach a place of safety.
- People fleeing persecution often lack awareness of any particular national asylum system, so harsher sentences for unauthorized entry are unlikely to provide any kind of deterrent.
- To penalise a person in need of protection on the basis of how they arrived in a safe country is morally wrong. If these proposals go ahead, they will fundamentally undermine the principles the UK helped to craft and agreed to uphold, when it signed the Refugee Convention.
In relation to part (b) Freedom from Torture suggests making the points listed below:
- By cracking down on unauthorised entry, the UK government will actually push desperate people further into the hands of dangerous people smugglers, as few other available routes will remain.
CHAPTER 8 concerns the UK’s deportation system, used to expel from the country people who have committed criminal offences.
QUESTION 24: DECLINE TO ANSWER
This question relates to the proposals around providing prior notice of a set period (known as the notice period) before someone is removed. This notice period provides the opportunity to seek legal advice and bring legal challenges ahead of removal. There is very little information available to enable us to determine a set time period so we recommend that you avoid making or endorsing a particular proposal.
Freedom from Torture suggests making the points listed below:
- People whom the Home Office intends to forcibly remove from the UK should be given notice of when this is going to happen and sufficient opportunity to obtain legal advice and representation. Failure to do so could result in the wrongful return of survivors of torture and trauma to persecution and death.
- Notice should be given of the date and time it is intended to remove the person as early as possible and no later than a fixed minimum period.
- The minimum period ought to be calculated having regard to the length of time it takes to obtain legal advice and representation, for a lawyer to assess whether a person’s removal is lawful or unlawful, and for them to follow the necessary procedures to challenge an unlawful removal.
If you answer this question, you may wish to be careful when answering part (a) to make clear that you are objecting to these proposals (you may be suggesting completely different proposals or making no proposals). Suggesting improvements implies that you consider there is some underlying merit in what the government is proposing and that the proposals should be adopted.
In relation to part (a) Freedom from Torture suggests making the points listed below:
- The proposals in Chapter 8 do nothing to address the existing flaws in the system of enforced removals. The government’s aim should be to achieve an effective asylum system, in which those fleeing persecution, including torture, can have faith that their claim will be fairly considered and that they will have access to legal remedy as a standard check and balance on government decision making.
- Freedom from Torture objects to the proposed changes to asylum support eligibility which will increase homelessness and poverty amongst people seeking refugee protection, including children. For years, enforced destitution has been part of the Home Office’s approach to force people to return to their country of origin following a refusal of asylum.
- The current plans indicate a deepening commitment to the hostile environment approach, far from the “cultural shift” Priti Patel has promised of her Department. This approach has proven to be not only inhumane, but entirely ineffective even on the Government’s own terms.
- Enforced homelessness and poverty should never be a built-in feature of the UK’s asylum system; our asylum system should be designed to protect, not to punish.
In relation to part (b) Freedom from Torture suggests making the point listed below:
- Desperate to avoid being returned to danger, individuals and families whose asylum claims have been rejected are likely to be forced to live “under the radar” in the UK. This will likely lead to harmful situations, such as children being removed from school, reluctance to seek medical care when it is needed and being forced into exploitative situations.