A British National Refugee Policy

New report calls for an approach to refugees that is about fairness, dignity, safety and opportunity.

A new report, written by the Conservative Peer Baroness Stroud, CEO of the Legatum Institute, alongside Enver Solomon the CEO of Refugee Council, Alexander Betts the Director of the Refugee Studies Centre at Oxford University, and Will Somerville of Unbound Philanthropy, calls for the UK to develop a ‘national refugee strategy’ and to prioritise diplomatic solutions to control Channel Crossings.

The report argues that Channel Crossings and spontaneous arrivals are “one of the most challenging strategic and operational issues” facing the British government within asylum policy. It argues that crossings across the English Channel can only be managed “in a way that is based upon cooperating bilaterally [between Britain and France] or between Britain and the European Union, and working pragmatically and competently to find solutions that reconcile security and human rights.”

Noting that there are “no obvious precedents available” which show that chaotic border crossings can be resolved without joint efforts, the report argues that one way of securing an orderly solution could be to rely on establishing “joint Anglo-French processing centres” to assess claims in France, and then for Britain to liaise diplomatically with its partners in Europe to develop a fair model which allows for responsibility-sharing.

The report suggests that the government’s existing approach is inadequate, noting that “the recent policy to remove people seeking asylum to Rwanda is likely to be ineffective, costly, and risks weakening the global system for managing asylum claims.” It argues that the Rwanda policy highlights the “inadequacy of current thinking on how the country responds to refugees” and shows that there is an “urgent need to rethink our national refugee policies in a way that protects vulnerable people fleeing war and persecution, reduces human smuggling, and retains widespread public support.”

Baroness Stroud, one of the authors of the report, said: “Without international cooperation, we will struggle to stop crossings. Even policies like the Rwanda flight are proving to be useless deterrents as the numbers taking dangerous journeys has rocketed. Instead, we must work with the countries on the other side of the channel to manage this crisis together.

“There must be three pillars to our approach. First, we must strengthen collaboration to stop smuggling. Second, we must secure agreement from our European partners for the establishment of joint processing centres in Europe so that asylum claims are processed before people arrive here. Finally, we should create safe routes from Europe itself at these centres so that we take our fair share.

“If all claims were processed at joint processing centres before people arrived in Calais, we would significantly undermine the people-smuggler’s business. Diplomacy is the key to a comprehensive national refugee strategy.”

Enver Solomon, CEO of the Refugee Council, said: “With record numbers of people crossing the Channel this year it is absolutely clear that Government policy as enshrined in the Nationality and Borders Act and the Rwanda deal is simply not working.

“We need a fair and humane asylum system and that means having grown-up conversations with France and the EU about sharing responsibility, and the development of well thought-out, long term solutions which provide safe routes for the increasing numbers of people forced from their homes.

“This paper sets out concrete ideas for ministers and others to explore, not least through the creation of a National Refugee Strategy which would both signal our intent to be part of the solution to what is an increasing global problem and underline our historic commitment to be there for those fleeing war, persecution and conflict. We also make important proposals which would allow people seeking asylum to work while in the UK, both providing them with better support and also the opportunity to contribute to society in a very meaningful way.”

Alexander Betts, Director of the Refugee Studies Centre of Oxford University, said: “Refugee movements are a major global challenge, and yet the UK has never had a clearly defined national refugee policy. As co-authors, we’ve worked collaboratively across traditional divides to propose the elements of a unifying strategy that can be principled, pragmatic, and effective.”

The report proposes four other features of a national refugee strategy:

Asylum backlogs – The major barrier to the possible future success of the asylum system is the administrative burden and exorbitant cost of the asylum backlog, according to the report. In order for rapid and efficient decision-making to resume, it argues that the asylum system needs a ‘reset’, recommending that a dedicated backlog clearance team is established to process the nearly 120,000 people who are waiting an initial decision on their asylum claim.

Right to work after six months – Seeing as nearly three-quarters of those waiting for an initial decision on their claim have been waiting more than six months, the report argues that people seeking asylum should be given greater access to the right to work in order to support themselves and contribute to the national economy. It proposes that the right to work should begin six months after arrival, and no longer be restricted by occupation.

National refugee integration strategy – Central government should create standards for effective refugee integration strategies, with direct earmarked funding for local authorities, linked to clearly defined key performance indicators as part of a national refugee integration strategy. At central government level, this requires joined-up policymaking across the Home Office, the Ministry of Levelling-Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC), the Department for Education, and the Department of Health and Social Care. It also requires joined-up thinking between central government and local authorities.

Improved global engagement – The report contends that the UK should play a leadership role on global refugee policy in the long term, including a renewed commitment to the UN Convention on Refugees by engaging more actively in the Global Compact on Refugees. It suggests that the UK could also work with a coalition of likeminded states to negotiate a ‘solidarity pact’ to clarify the allocation of responsibilities between states in areas that are ambiguously or inadequately addressed by the international refugee system.


A British National Refugee Policy

By Baroness Philippa Stroud

Oct 2022

Download the reportPDF