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MSF UK responds to insincere Home Office request on migration

06 Jul 22

MSF UK responds to insincere Home Office request on migration

Today the consultancy firm BritainThinks, under a Home Office contract, plans to start 45-minute interviews with “key stakeholders” to understand “migrant perceptions of migrating to the UK” and awareness of migration policies in the UK and communications around these.

This is under the guise of providing people on the move with accurate information on social media about crossing the Channel.

MSF UK was one of the organisations initially contacted to participate. We are choosing not to engage in this charade. We applaud other UK-based organisations that have likewise publicly refused to participate in this insincere consultation process.

Instead, we have used those 45 minutes to draft the following response:

Dear Home Office,

Thank you for getting in touch about the BritainThinks consultation.

MSF UK has repeatedly made clear our position on the UK’s hostile environment, of which the New Plan for Immigration forms a part. This sees the criminalisation of refugees and asylum seekers based on their mode of arrival in the UK, amongst other harmful policies. We know from the UK and elsewhere that punitive migration policies that seek to deter refugees and asylum seekers from reaching safety will only contribute to more suffering and deaths at the UK border.

In 2021 we responded to the consultation on the Nationality and Borders Bill, stating our concerns around the harmful impact of differential treatment and a lack of safe and legal routes to the UK. Between September and October, we provided written and oral evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights, written evidence to the Bill Committee and wrote to the Home Secretary.

In December, we published a joint letter with other medical organisations to the Secretary of State outlining our concerns of the health impacts of the Nationality and Borders Bill. In February of this year, our Executive Director met with the Minister for Safe and Legal Routes, and we followed up with a letter reinstating our concerns. Throughout the consultation process, the advice, input and recommendations of refugees and asylum seekers, NGOs and legal organisations and experts was ignored by the Home Office.

It is therefore impossible to believe the sincerity of this request for consultation now, particularly when the Home Office has begun to implement the Nationality and Borders Act and seems determined to proceed with horrific plans to forcibly remove vulnerable people to Rwanda.

The Home Office also has a track record of deliberately misleading, lying or covering up information regarding migration. We are concerned that this consultation process could continue those efforts.

The social media messaging developed by the Home Office so far fails to include any mention of safe and legal alternatives. Your plans to develop further messaging to deter people from seeking safety in the UK without offering alternatives is nothing short of shameful. 

If the Home Office genuinely seeks to preserve life in the English Channel, then it must first:

  • Expand safe and legal routes to the UK for all refugees and asylum seekers within and outside Europe.
     
  • Ensure that the limited country-specific routes that exist are genuinely providing safety to those fleeing violence and persecution.
  • Publicly commit to never intercept and return people crossing the Channel in small boats, or to implement other methods that jeopardise life.

The expansion of safe and legal routes, the abandonment of all harmful deterrence, containment and externalisation policies as well as meaningful engagement with migrants, refugees, and asylum seekers as key stakeholders, would be necessary steps before any such consultation.

Until then, MSF UK will continue to see this consultation as a meaningless box-ticking exercise, a waste of time and an insult to the vulnerable people who risk their lives in search of safety in the UK.

Kind regards,

Sophie McCann, advocacy officer at MSF UK

Tell the UK Government to protect the rights of refugees

We are urging our supporters to write to their MPs to ask them to protect the rights of refugees and asylum seekers and voice their opposition to the Nationality and Borders Act. Find out more by following the link below.