PEOPLE seem to have a lot more time for Iain Duncan Smith now than they ever did while he was Conservative leader.
This morning, for instance, he was on the Today programme talking about the new report by his think tank, the Centre for Social Justice, into the asylum system. He made a number of good points and I’m going to have to get a copy.
As a Glasgow MP, I have always had to deal with a large number of asylum cases. Glasgow was the only local authority in Scotland to volunteer to be part of the Home Office’s asylum seeker dispersal programme, aimed at encouraging areas other than London to share responsiblity for supporting asylum seekers.
In the past seven years I have gained a reputation of being hardline on the issue. If someone applies for asylum and that application is approved, they should be welcomed with open arms. If rejected, they should return to their home country. There is no doubt in my mind that the asylum system is being used more by those wishing – for perfectly understandable reasons – to come to the UK to improve the standard of living for themselves and their families, than by those genuinely in need of refuge from an oppressive state.
On more occasions than I care to remember, I have been approached by asylum seekers who tell me, at our first meeting, that despite being in the UK for six or seven years, they still haven’t received a response to their initial application. What they mean is that they still haven’t received a positive decision to their numerous appeals against the initial rejection.
If you’re single and have no children, you lose your state support once you’ve exhausted your appeal rights. Families continue to get support until they leave – voluntarily or involuntarily. But voluntary repatriations don’t happen as frequently as necessary, and involuntary removals of families – leading, occasionally, to the so-called “dawn raids” – aren’t exactly ideal levers for enforcing policy.
Even after early day removals are carried out, courts often delay or prevent a family’s actual removal if a judicial review is lodged at the last minute. And JRs are almost always lodged at the very last minute. This kind of circumstance is distressing for the family, frustrating for immigration and police officers and politically difficult for MPs and the government. Surely, any new policy initiative that would make the initial application for refugee status more robust – and therefore less vulnerable to being subsequently overturned on appeal – should be considered?
IDS (his real name is plain George Smith, you know) has thought carefully about this issue because it is an important one. He has resisted the temptation to parrot the Daily Mail dog whistle line of “send them all back and the sooner the better” and has opted instead for some measured and considered analysis.
I hope the government is listening.