‘Harsh’ UK asylum policy ‘counter-productive’

Britain’s harsh immigration policy costs more money and returns less failed asylum seekers than a more compassionate alternative, according to a thinktank close to the Tory party.

The centre-right Centre for Social Justice, founded by former Tory leader, Iain Duncan Smith, condemned the state of British asylum policy in a report today.

“The British government is using forced destitution as a means of encouraging people to leave voluntarily. It is a failed policy,” Mr Smith said.

The thinktank highlighted the difficulties imposed on asylum seekers, saying it was this attitude which led to so many asylum rejections being overturned on appeal.

Mr Duncan Smith suggested Britain undertake a model similar to that in Sweden, where asylum applicants are given more leeway to establish a good case, and where 80 per cent of failed applicants return home voluntarily, compared to 20 per cent in the UK.

The report argues that by giving asylum seekers the time and resources they need to make a decent case the first time, the dreaded appeals process can be cut down significantly.

“We rely heavily on forcible return, which is both very costly and time-consuming, and engages only a small proportion of those whose claims are refused,” Mr Duncan Smith said.

“This system gives refused asylum seekers good reason to abscond and little reason to engage with officialdom.”

The report also calls for those seeking asylum to be allowed to work while their decision is pending.

Asylum seekers are currently barred from employment while their cases are considered, placing them in the unenviable position of being unable to take up employment and blocked from accepting benefits.

The Centre for Social Justice has been gradually expanding on its media presence since it was established by Mr Duncan Smith.

Despite its name, and a focus on disadvantaged families, its association with the former Tory leader, and Tim Montgomerie of Conservative Home, places it on the soft-right of the Conservative party.

The report comes as extra judges are drafted in to deal with the quantity of asylum and immigration appeals blocking up the courts.

The move is a precursor to radical government action in the new year, in which immigration work is expected to be moved out of the High Court altogether and into new tribunal services – probably next summer.

Senior immigration judges would then hear the vast majority of cases, rather than High Court judges.

The cost of forcible removing a failed asylum seeker is £11,000 compared to just £1,100 for voluntary removals.