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Sheffield groups sign open letter opposing New Plan for Immigration

Several migrant and asylum organisations have signed an open letter to six Sheffield MPs outlining their opposition to the 'inhumane and unworkable' proposals.

SYMAAG protest image

SYMAAG members at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre for a demonstration in 2017.

South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group.

A group of asylum and migrant groups in Sheffield have come together to write an open letter to six local MPs opposing new proposed changes by the Government under their New Plan for Immigration. The Home Office outlined the details of their new plan in Parliament on 24 March, which looks at overhauling many parts of the current immigration system so that it’s ‘firm but fair’.

These changes would affect many, if not all, refugees and asylum seekers coming to the UK. Under the new plans, the method in which a person enters the country will now have an impact on their claim, effectively creating a two-tier system. Only people arriving via an ‘official’ route will be given the right to settle in the UK.

But as many migrant-focused organisations and charities have pointed out, official routes are already minimal and restricted, a fact which has been reflected in how many people have recently been granted asylum in the UK - 9,381 in 2020, compared with 19,408 in 2019, a drop of 52%.

The proposed plan would also mean refugees and people seeing asylum who entered the country illegally but had their application accepted would be regularly reassessed for removal. This would create an insecure immigration status which could have wider implications for employment or housing, for example. There would also be minimal rights to family reunion and limited access to benefits.

The open letter currently has 11 signatories, including ASSIST, South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG), Right to Remain, These Walls Must Fall, City of Sanctuary, Sheffield Against Asylum Evictions (SAAE) and Student Action for Refugees (STAR).

In the letter, the organisations write that “the New Plan would slam the door in the face of people in dire need of protection from persecution."

"Despite the rhetoric, these divisive plans will do nothing to address the root causes of why people put their lives at risk trying to cross the Channel or the record backlog of people waiting in inhumane conditions for a decision on their claim for asylum.”

David Price, one of the founders of SYMAAG, told Now Then why opposing the New Plan for Immigration is so important.“ This New Plan would mean that those who do not come here via 'safe and legal routes' could never get 'indefinite leave to remain'. They would instead be placed on a new temporary protection status, and after 30 months they would be reassessed for return to their country of origin or another safe country,” Price said.

He added that this could be illegal under the 1951 Refugee Convention, to which the UK is committed, which makes clear that people should not be penalised for illegal entry. “We find these and other proposals most disturbing, and hope that they will be widely opposed and defeated.”

Tom Martin, Director of City of Sanctuary Sheffield, explained to Now Then just how important it is that people come together to oppose and resist the proposed changes.

“It is vital that Sheffield shows what it means to be a true City of Sanctuary by standing together and resisting these inhumane and unworkable policies.

"It is only through collective resistance when faced with injustice that we can hope to build a city that is truly welcoming and safe for all who arrive here seeking sanctuary."

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