UK asylum policy ‘sends people to their deaths’

The UK’s asylum policy is “sending people to their deaths” according to extensive interviews conducted with refugees.

Refugee groups are pointing to the UK policy of setting up border control outside the UK to prevent asylum seekers getting to the country, potentially sentencing those fleeing persecution to death.

British officials and airline personnel are being stationed in countries known as popular transit routes to the UK, such as Turkey, tasked with stopping those without proper documentation reaching the UK.

But activists say those genuinely needing asylum are rarely in a position to gain the documentation from the very government which is persecuting them.

“It is impossible to overemphasise how serious the consequences may possibly be,” said Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, which compiled the interviews.

“Of course a state has to control its borders – that is the world we live in. But to do so with no regard to the safety of the people you are keeping out – well, that is scandalous.”

UK immigration measures have long operated beyond the country’s borders, with officials being posted to refugee countries of origin, such as Sri Lanka, and transit countries, such as South Africa – which is popular with Zimbabwean asylum seekers.

Visa regimes, carrier sanctions, and airline liaison officers based in foreign airports also act to control travel to the UK.

The Refugee Council found potential asylum seekers had to adopt drastic and highly dangerous tactics to get to the UK due to the transit controls.

One interviewee, known only as SA, said: “It was so difficult but that is the Sahara, is so big, you can’t imagine what is the difficulties there, it’s so dry… how many people died… during my journey not one died but on the way, you saw, on the way the people died on the floor, there are bones, there are these things.”

Another, KI, said: “I had no choice, I could not have used the Zimbabwean passport and come into the UK. I couldn’t.”

Ms Covey said decent figures as to how many people were affected by the system were unavailable.

“We have no idea how many people we are sending to their deaths, by stopping them from getting on a plane, or by refusing to let them leave a country without a visa.

“We are not saying everybody should come here. What we are saying is that all UK border controls should contain a safeguard to ensure that the government is not directly or indirectly responsible for sending someone to their death.”

The report comes two days after it was reported an Iraqi immigrant to the UK sewed his eyes shut to prevent himself being deported back to his home country.