The new plan for immigration

Think tank: Social Market Foundation

Author(s): Jonathan Thomas

May 5, 2021

This report from UK the Social Market Foundation looks at Albanian migration to the UK as a microcosm of the complexities within the UK’s asylum system.

For the refugee rights sector the Government’s New Plan for Immigration presents a fundamental challenge, designed as it is to more transparently share the Government’s struggles with immigration control and to exploit public perceptions and opinions on asylum. This briefing argues that by failing to engage with either the public’s scepticism of asylum seekers, or the problem of what to do about failed asylum seekers, the refugee rights sector has ceded the ground in this area to the Government, and that the New Plan for Immigration is largely the result. This briefing considers Albanian migration to the UK as a microcosm of the blurred lines and complexities the UK’s asylum system has to deal with, the polarisation of perspectives it creates, and the potential problems of failed asylum seekers which the system generates. At present, Albania ranks second of countries generating asylum claims in the UK. The thorny issue of what to do about failed asylum seekers is a core problem which the Home Office and the refugee rights sector should see a common interest in resolving. Without this common approach an asylum system which politicians, public and refugee rights sector can all stand behind seems unachievable. A common approach is possible though. From 2011-2015 control of the assisted voluntary return (AVR) programme in the UK was handed by the Home Office to Refugee Action, a leading refugee rights organisation, which built trust and encouraged unsuccessful asylum claimants to engage with the programme to consider returning home. When the Home Office took back control of the programme in 2015, this trust declined, and the numbers of people returning through this route have since fallen steeply. This could – and should – be reversed. Such co-operation has the potential to better address one of the most complex challenges of the asylum system in a way in which no single institution, nor even single side of the debate, can do on its own.