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Will new UK PM reduce suffering of refugees?

01 November 2022

Barrister Solaiman Tushar :
New British Prime Minister Mr Rishi Sunak's family has been living outside their mother land for three generations. His grandparents went to East Africa from what is now Pakistan's Punjab province long before the country gained independence. After many years they came to live in Southampton, England.
Mr Rishi Sunak was born in 1980. He grew up in Southampton. Mr Rishi Sunak of Indian origin has risen very quickly in British politics. In 2015, he became a Member of Parliament for the first time at the age of 35. And within seven years he was elected as the Prime Minister. On October 24, Mr Rishi Sunak was elected unopposed as the leader of Britain's ruling Conservative Party, and on 25 October, he was formally appointed as Prime Minister by King Charles III at Buckingham Palace. This is the first time that a non-white and immigrant child has become one of Britain's premiers Became the leader of the political party as well as the Prime Minister.
Mr Rishi Sunak became the prime minister once at a time when Britain is facing its worst economic crisis in decades. Britain's economy has been weakened by stagnant growth, over 10 percent inflation, the Ukraine war, the Covid pandemic, and Brexit. Added to that is the instability of the government. Along with this is the refugee problem. In 2021, 48,540 people applied for asylum in Britain, which is 63 percent more than the previous year. Refugees in the country have been suffering for a long time.
The plight of refugees has increased since the time of former Home Secretary Theresa May. The problem became more pronounced when Theresa May became Prime Minister. After that, although different people became Prime Minister and Home Minister, the situation did not change. Only time has passed. But the suffering of refugees has not eased. As Britain leaves the European Union, many of the rights of refugees have been lost. The British government has made new laws on refugees. As a result, the suffering of the refugees will increase.
The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 came into force in the country on 28 June 2022. There are two important changes in the law. The two changes are the separation of refugees into two categories and the automatic deportation policy that will affect Asian and Bangladeshi nationals living in the country. Firstly, under Section 12 of the Act, the government has developed a new policy for granting asylum where the Home Office will classify asylum seekers into temporary refugees (for two-and-a-half years) and refugees (who are allowed to settle after five years under the existing system)'. Temporary refugees have to renew their visas every two and a half years for up to 10 years and are then eligible for settlement (indefinitely). Most importantly, temporary refugees cannot sponsor their family members without showing cause on compassionate grounds. This means they cannot bring spouses or children. But under the previous system, refugees had the scope easily to do so.
Secondly, section 40 of the Act empowers the Secretary of State for the Home Office to deport or repatriate any migrant who enters the UK illegally or overstays. According to Section 40 (F) of Act (A) and (B), the authorities are authorized to impose imprisonment of up to 4 years on conviction. (Before June 28 of the current year it was up to 6 months). In addition, if someone is sentenced to more than 12 months in prison, the Secretary of State for the Home Office must make a deportation order against them under section 32(5) of the UK Borders Act 2007.
Additionally, former British Home Minister Priti Patel signed an 'Asylum Partnership Agreement' with Rwanda in April 2022. It aims to 'relocate to improve the lives of people who are dangerous, illegal or needlessly coming to the UK'. Under the agreement, Rwanda will consider asylum applications and 'settle or reject' them in line with international law. The Home Office reports that around 300 people are expected to be sent to Rwanda each year.
Some of the refugees were supposed to be sent back to Rwanda in June 2022, but it was canceled when the European Court of Human Rights intervened at the last minute.
If the new law and agreement with Rwanda come into effect, the suffering of the refugees will increase manifold. Refugees will be disappointed even if they leave their country and seek asylum in Britain. Will the new Prime Minister of Indian descent, Mr Rishi Sunak, solve the problem of refugees? Will the new PM take any effective steps to reduce the suffering of refugees?

(The writer is a member of the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn and Dhaka Bar Association).

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