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As I listen to plans to send asylum seekers to Rwanda, I can’t help think it would be more effective to prevent people smuggling activity by allowing asylum seekers to apply from overseas. It could be a quite simple online process, perhaps supported by small offices in other key countries.

Or, indeed, by allowing people to apply for a specific temporary asylum seeker visa, with a clear risk of deportation if unsuccessful, allowing safe passage to the UK for processing.

I can’t see the negative issue: asylum shopping seems like the most likely argument against it, but with what seems to be fairly clear capacity and eligibility, like family and language connections, I feel like it could be managed.

I’ve searched around the internet and found many sources confirming that many countries don’t allow this, but not why not the UK.

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    Because otherwise many more would do it. It's a wonder they actually allow asylum applications at all.
    – Trilarion
    Apr 17 at 19:31

2 Answers 2

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The UK government isn't concerned with making it easy to apply for asylum. On the contrary, it tries to make it difficult.

Asylum isn't some sort of visa. The idea of an "asylum seeker visa" is almost absurd! If you are in a safe country from which you can visit an office and apply for entry to the UK, you do not need asylum. In that case, you may apply for a visa to visit the UK, and it will be approved or not depending on your situation.

If you are in fear of persecution, torture, or death, you cannot apply for a visa. You flee. Maybe you hope to travel to the UK or otherwise.

The point of asylum is that it is exceptional. It is a last resort. You become a refugee because there is no alternative.

So

  1. The UK government doesn't want or need to make it easy to apply for asylum.
  2. The UK government could not set up small offices in countries from which many asylum seekers come. That is because those counties are not able to protect their own citizens. And so they could not protect this "small office". There may be war, a lack of civil peace, or persecution of groups by the government.
  3. Asylum isn't a visa. If you want to apply for a visa, that is possible, and many people do.
  4. There are no "family" or language connections required for asylum. The only thing needed is a well-founded fear of persecution. If you wish to come to the UK to rejoin family, then there are regular visas.
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    It should be noted that there is nothing special about the UK here. To my understanding, most countries handle asylum requests in a similar fashion.
    – Kevin
    Apr 17 at 0:45
  • It's also worth noting that other systems have been proposed at least in some countries (like mine) every now and again, such as allowing asylum applications to be made in the embassy of a nearby-but-not-fully-safe country. They never got anywhere close to a political majority though.
    – Jan
    Apr 22 at 18:58
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In theory, the international community agreed that people who are persecuted or flee natural disaster should get refugee status or asylum in the first safe country that they reach. This is the principle of non-refoulement. Once they reach a safe country, they are no longer fleeing persecution or disaster. Being persecuted or being a refugee does not grant the right to pick a better destination country afterwards.

As Jack Aidley points out in his comment, fullfact.org shows how UK law does not require applicants to apply in the first safe country in all cases. However, fullfact also points to Article 31 of the UN convention which applies to refugees coming directly to a place of refuge. UK law would be for the UK to change ...

This was of course rather convenient for many Western countries which did not want to house refugees. Someone who came to Turkey from Syria or Afghanistan, or to Egypt from Eritrea or Sudan, was deemed to have reached a safe country. The way to reach the UK, in particular, was either by air or through EU states which are generally accepted as safe. The air route was closed by requiring visa or passport checks before someone boards a plane.

By thw way, this allows the EU to argue that their current treatment of Ukrainian refugees is not a double standard -- for once, the EU is the first safe country these refugees reach, and it has the legal and moral obligation to house them.

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    Am I correct in understanding this means the UK, under law and morals aside, could be unlikely to accept any asylum seekers at all, as there is no direct route open from ‘hostile’ countries? I’m struggling to understand how regulation and reality correlate
    – Daniel
    Apr 17 at 6:24
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    It is not true that asylum seekers are supposed to seek refuge in the first safe country - fullfact.org/immigration/refugees-first-safe-country Apr 17 at 9:36
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    @JackAidley, fullfact are activists. That doesn't make their statements wrong, but it means it has to be taken with a grain of salt. The UK must check asylum applications from people in the UK, but it doesn't have to let them in to make their applications.
    – o.m.
    Apr 17 at 9:46
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    @Daniel, under this reading of the rules, the UK does not have to accept refugees from Syria or Ukraine or places like that unless they swim all the way, or unless the situation changes so suddenly that they become persecuted while in the UK (e.g. if there is a coup in their homeland). They may accept them out of charity.
    – o.m.
    Apr 17 at 9:50
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    @JackAidley, I don't think I attacked fullfact with my characterization. You seem to feel that way. Any other readers, please upvote Jack's comment if you agree with him -- then I'll try to make my characterization more neutral.
    – o.m.
    Apr 17 at 13:52

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