It’s a common argument against the refugees coming across the Channel to the UK at the moment – why don’t they just stop in France?
The answer is obvious: They don’t feel safe there.
And the legal position is clear: The 1951 refugee convention acknowledges that refugees may enter countries through irregular routes and should not be penalised for this. The outcome of an asylum application cannot be pre-judged, irrespective of how that person reached the country. Asylum claims have to be determined according to the law and the circumstances of every individual case.
All of the above seems to have been lost on Sajid Javid, who seems to think it would be big and tough of him to refuse asylum to anybody who manages to cross the Channel safely.
Sajid Javid here, just casually suggesting his government would breach the Geneva Convention by deliberately refusing asylum to genuine refugees who have risked their lives to cross the Channel and seek sanctuary in the UK pic.twitter.com/KmRRviwQTo
— The Prole Star (@TheProleStar) January 2, 2019
The Prole Star is correct. It would be illegal to refuse asylum to anybody who arrives in the UK and demands it, based on the method of their arrival or the fact that they did not stop in another country instead. It is not up to him to make such a decision.
As Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott pointed out: “It is not for Sajid Javid to claim that asylum seekers may not be genuine. He cannot know. We have a system for determining that.”
Can you imagine what would happen if Mr Javid went through with his racist idea?
Well, don’t worry – all you have to do is watch events in Israel, where the racist Likud government has announced that it intends to expel around 38,000 African refugees.
(I say racist because the hatred of people of other ethnicities is clear; Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said the expulsions are necessary to protect Israel’s “Jewish character”.)
Many of the people concerned say they came to Israel to seek asylum after fleeing persecution and conflict, but the authorities in that country regard them as “economic migrants”.
The BBC report of this outrage states that the group affected by this policy “includes people fleeing war-torn countries such as Syria, who are likely to be granted refugee status”.
But the Guardian‘s report on Sajid Javid’s racism includes a comment by immigration and asylum barrister Colin Yeo as follows: “Sending genuine refugees to face persecution in order to dissuade others from seeking to come here is plainly illegal.” If Israel is signed up to the same convention as the UK – and it is – then it is illegal in that country as well.
And the words of Yvette Cooper, quoted in the Guardian report, may also be applied to Israel: “Asylum claims have to be determined according to the law and the circumstances of every individual case, not as an arbitrary political decision supposedly to deter others.”
Sadly, it seems there is no penalty for non-compliance – other than bad publicity in the newspapers, and that depends on the political leanings of their owners.
Perhaps Mr Javid thinks a little bad publicity is worth risking. It seems likely he’ll be watching what happens in Israel with great interest.
Of course, if a general election is called in the meantime, there’s a chance his racist ideas will come to nothing.
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