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Bishop of Chelmsford’s Bill proposes legal pathways for asylum-seekers

08 December 2023


The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, shakes hands with the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta, after signing a new treaty in Kigali, on Tuesday, which attempts to address the concerns of the Supreme Court

The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, shakes hands with the Rwandan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vincent Biruta, after signing a new treaty in Kigali, o...

A HUMANITARIAN visa scheme that would create a legal pathway for asylum-seekers to enter the UK has been proposed by the Bishop of Chelmsford, Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, in an attempt to dismantle the people-smuggling operations that send thousands of people across the Channel in unsafe boats.

The Asylum Travel Visa Scheme would offer up to 10,000 humanitarian visas in its first year, and numbers would be determined in subsequent years by the Home Secretary.

The scheme was set out in a Private Members’ Bill, which had its First Reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday of last week.

The humanitarian visa scheme would allow people safely to enter the UK, where there was a high chance that their asylum claim would be granted, Dr Francis-Dehqani said. A visa would last for six months, and visa-holders would have their claims for asylum considered through an accelerated process.

“I am pleased to bring forward this Private Members’ Bill on the introduction of a Humanitarian Visa Scheme, which will provide a much-needed opportunity to discuss safe routes into the UK for refugees fleeing conflict, persecution, and disasters,” Dr Francis-Dehqani said.

“Such a scheme can help to undercut the business model of people-smugglers’ encouraging refugees to take dangerous journeys across the Channel and the Mediterranean, by providing a safe, accessible, and controlled route.

“A humanitarian visa scheme is just one of many workable proposals to offer safety, welcome, and community to those fleeing danger here in the UK.”

A date for the Second Reading of the Bill has yet to be scheduled.

The Home Secretary, James Cleverly, this week unveiled a plan to cut migration, which includes raising the minimum salary for skilled overseas workers to £38,700, banning care workers from bringing dependents to the UK, increasing the charge paid by foreign workers for using the NHS, and stopping companies paying 20 per cent less for jobs on a shortage occupation list.

Mr Cleverly said that the measures would cut migration by 300,000. He also travelled to Rwanda, on Tuesday, to unveil a new treaty with the Rwandan government, which, he said, addressed the concerns of the UK Supreme Court, which ruled that the Government’s plan to send migrants to Rwanda was illegal (News, 17 November).

On Wednesday evening, the Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, because of “strong disagreements with the direction of the Government’s policy on immigration”. He wrote in a resignation letter to the Prime Minister that a draft Bill, which aimed to show that Rwanda was a safe place for asylum-seekers, “does not go far enough”. 

The letter continued: “A bill of the kind you are proposing is a triumph of hope over experience. The stakes for the country are too high for us not to pursue the stronger protections required to end the merry-go-round of legal challenges which risk paralysing the scheme and negating its intended deterrent.”

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