LONDON — The UK government on Thursday rolled out a policy stating that refugees can be sent back to their homeland if conditions in their country suddenly improve.
The guidelines, drawn up by the Home Office, also state that when refugees apply for settlement protection after their mandatory five-year probation period in the UK, their applications will be “subject to a safe return review.”
Prime Minister Theresa May outlined her ambition to make these changes in 2015 when she was home secretary.
In her address at the Conservative Party conference that year, she said: “When a refugee’s temporary stay of protection in the UK comes to an end, or if there is a clear improvement in the conditions of their own country, we will review their need for protection.
“If their reason for asylum no longer stands and it is now safe for them to return, we will seek to return them to their home country rather than offer settlement here in Britain.”
The new policy also states that a refugee’s status can be reviewed “at any point” if they are convicted of a serious crime. It also states that their right to stay in the UK can be revoked if they do not “need protection” any longer or should not have been given refugee status in the first place.
If a refugee does not apply for settlement after five years, the Home Office’s document says they then become an “overstayer” and are no longer entitled to benefits or allowed to work and might be sent back to their home country.
The UK’s Refugee Council denounced the new policy as a threat to refugees’ prospects “of being able to rebuild their lives in safety and integrate into British life.” It called on the government to “put the futures of refugees first” and ensure that policies foster integration rather than undermine it.
“This policy will result in refugees who have demonstrated their need for protection being prevented from being able to properly rebuild their lives and being left with the constant fear of return hanging over their heads,” Refugee Council Director of Advocacy Dr. Lisa Doyle said in statement.
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