Earlier this week a Home Office source said –

“The UK has a long and proud history of offering refuge to those who need protection. Tens of thousands of people have rebuilt their lives in the UK and we will continue to provide safe and legal routes in the future.

This was in the context of discussions, now abandoned, to relocate people seeking asylum in the UK to Ascension Island – https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-54349796. The plans were dropped on the basis of cost rather than a rediscovery of our once ‘long and proud history’.

Other bright ideas have including the use of oil rigs and disused ferries. The Home Office seems to be full of creative ideas about how to disown and humiliate those who come here to look for safety. Anyone coming here to find refuge is more likely to find a door slammed in their face. Barrister, Colin Yeo in his landmark book – Welcome to Britain* quotes from one notable reason for refusal in the mid 1990s –

‘The Secretary of State…considered your account of crossing the Zaire River by canoe at night to be totally implausible. The Secretary of State is aware of the size, strength and considerable dangers posed by the river such as shifting sandbanks and crocodiles.’

These clearly fictitious concerns ‘suggest that this was no reason for refusal, but rather an excuse’. Colin talks of a culture of disbelief. The bar is set so high that most cannot get over it.

There is a similar culture of disbelief that still surrounds the victims of the Windrush Scandal. They became a persecuted generation as part of a politically motivated ‘hostile environment’ because of a refusal to believe that they had lived in the UK for many years. Some literally lost their lives as a result –


Victims who claimed compensation were told that they had to prove their losses ‘beyond reasonable doubt’. All other claimants have to prove their losses on a balance of probabilities. A higher test is applied to a group that has been singled out for harsh treatment –


The UK possibly did, at one time have a long history of offering refuge to those in need of refuge. But this is now very much ‘had’ rather than ‘has’.

Where there are legal grounds to fight refusal and removal, asylum seekers find it extremely hard to find the representation that they need. Those lawyers who do work on the front line, are dismissed as ‘activist lawyers’.

Anyone who is proud that we did once welcome those in need should be seriously disturbed by this hostility. These are mainly, frightened people who desperately seek our protection. At the very least we should be campaigning that they will have access to affordable legal representation, to a voice that can be heard.

*Biteback Publishing Ltd