UK: Lords committee raises concerns over refugee protection after Brexit
Leaving the European Union means the loss of a safe, legal route for the reunification of separated refugee families in Europe, a House of Lords committee has told the UK government.
The House of Lords EU Home Affairs Sub-Committee has written to Home Secretary Priti Patel to share key findings from its inquiry on the implications of Brexit for refugee protection and asylum policy.
The publication of the committee’s report has had to be postponed due to the prorogation of Parliament, but the committee has decided to share the key findings of the report with the government now.
Asylum policy in the UK is influenced by Britain’s membership of the EU and participation in the Common European Asylum System (CEAS), which seeks to establish common standards for the reception and treatment of asylum seekers across the EU.
Within the CEAS, the UK takes part in the Dublin System – to determine which member state is responsible for examining an asylum application lodged in the EU – and the Eurodac database of the fingerprints of asylum seekers.
The committee concluded that the most significant implication of leaving the CEAS would be the loss of a safe, legal route for the reunification of separated refugee families in Europe.
It is particularly concerned by a potential reduction in the reunion rights of vulnerable unaccompanied children, who are able to be reunited with a broader range of family members under the Dublin System than under UK Immigration Rules.
The committee’s letter highlights that:
- The government’s failure to give evidence to the inquiry means that there is little to no up-to-date public information available on how it is working to ensure that vulnerable refugees and asylum seekers who have already experienced trauma do not face additional suffering as a result of Brexit.
- In a no-deal scenario, the UK’s sudden departure from the CEAS could have a considerable humanitarian impact on separated refugee families and unaccompanied children, leaving them in legal limbo and at risk of falling into gaps in the system.
- There is a clear shared interest in maintaining UK-EU asylum cooperation after Brexit, to support the effective management of national borders and regional migration flows across Europe. This relationship should have at its heart a shared agreement on, and commitment to uphold, minimum standards for refugee protection, asylum procedures, qualification, and reception conditions.
- The future relationship should include a framework for the speedy resolution of refugee family reunion cases and a returns mechanism. This would help to achieve the UK objective of being able to send asylum seekers back to the first safe country they reached for their cases to be processed.
Bilateral cooperation with EU member states like France and Belgium is also key to the effective management of UK borders. While the agreements underpinning these relationships are not formally EU-dependent, they have undoubtedly been easier to sustain under the shared umbrella of EU membership. A disruptive no-deal Brexit could place a particular strain on these relationships.