Understanding the Evolution and Reform of the UK’s Refugee Policies: The Nationality and Borders Act 2022 and Beyond

The United Kingdom introduced significant changes to its immigration policies with the implementation of the Nationality and Borders Act 2022 (NABA), which came into effect on 28 June 2022. Central to this Act was the establishment of a framework to distinguish between two categories of refugees seeking permanent stay in the UK, referred to as “Group 1” and “Group 2”.

A key differentiator between these two groups lies in their permitted stay duration. Refugees classified under Group 1 are typically granted permission to remain in the UK for a period of five years, after which they can apply for settlement. On the other hand, refugees within Group 2 are usually given temporary asylum for 30 months, following a 10-year route to settlement.

The driving force behind this policy differentiation was to discourage migrants from resorting to illegal means, particularly through the use of criminal smugglers, to enter the UK. This strategic approach has been largely successful. However, as the scope of the challenge continues to escalate, much like in other nations, the UK government found it necessary to further fortify its borders, leading to the introduction of the Illegal Migration Bill.

This Bill aims to set a new precedent in deterring unlawful entry into the UK. The goal is to ensure the only pathway into the UK for humanitarian reasons is via safe and legal channels. The Bill proposes a radical revamp of the process of handling individuals who illegally enter the UK through safe countries. Their asylum and human rights claims in relation to their home countries will be deemed inadmissible, and the Home Secretary will be obligated to deport them. This method presents a more robust way of addressing the issue that the differentiation policy originally sought to tackle: individuals undertaking perilous and unnecessary journeys through safe countries to seek asylum in the UK.

In light of these developments, the government has decided to halt the differentiation policy in the forthcoming package of Immigration Rules changes slated for July 2023. This will entail the cessation of grouping decisions under the differentiated asylum system post these Rules changes. Consequently, all individuals who are successful in their asylum application, including those granted humanitarian protection, will be subject to the same conditions. However, the capacity to remove failed asylum seekers remains unaffected.

The Home Office will reach out to individuals who have already been granted “Group 2” or humanitarian protection status under the post-28 June 2022 policies. Their conditions will be adjusted to align with those of “Group 1” refugees, which includes the length of permitted stay, the route to settlement, and eligibility for Family Reunion.

A new development was announced by the Home Office on 23 February 2023. A streamlined asylum processing model will be introduced for a select group of nationalities with high asylum grant rates, namely Afghanistan, Eritrea, Libya, Syria, and Yemen. This model will focus on cases that are manifestly well-founded, allowing for positive decisions without necessitating an additional interview. Importantly, no asylum application will be denied without offering the opportunity for an additional interview. Claims lodged between 28 June 2022 and the introduction date of the Illegal Migration Bill (7 March 2023) will be processed under this model. This will also be applicable to claimants from Sudan. As for Sudanese legacy claimants, they will continue to be processed in accordance with established policies and procedures, aligning with the Prime Minister’s pledge to clear the backlog of legacy asylum claims by the end of 2023.

The original statement can be found at https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-statements/detail/2023-06-08/hcws837.

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