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© UNHCR/Andrew McConnell

News story: Women and children abandoned by proposed refugee rules

Together With Refugees today reveals that a shocking two in every three women and children that the UK would accept as refugees now, would be turned away in future under proposed new government rules. This is despite the government’s own statement on the launch of these proposals that: “We should ask ourselves, where are the vulnerable women and children that this system should exist to protect?”.

The new rules would mean that most people who would be accepted as refugees under the current rules – meaning those confirmed to have fled war or persecution following rigorous official checks – would no longer have their rights recognised. This is because people who arrive in the UK through unofficial routes, such as in the back of a lorry, with false papers or in a boat, would be considered ‘inadmissible’ and be turned away – just because of how they got here.

Mariam, a clinical support worker on a Covid-19 ward in Leeds, came to the UK in the back of a lorry in 2009. She was forced to flee the brutal dictatorship in Eritrea after her husband, who had been forcibly conscripted into the army, escaped, and she was imprisoned as a result. Mariam has worked exhausting 12-hour shifts during the pandemic, sometimes four days in a row, but she loves the opportunity to help people. Under the proposed new rules somebody like Mariam would have their rights as a refugee denied in the UK because they arrived via an unofficial route.

“When I left Eritrea, I didn’t know if I was going to live or die. I just knew I had to get out. Every day, I thank God for bringing me here, and secondly I thank the people of the UK who saved me. Every time you give someone sanctuary, you have the opportunity to save a life. Why would you send them back? Help them, save them. The UK gave me an opportunity and now I’m working. I don’t want to be dependent on the government. I’m working and if I’m asked to help, I will help.”

Mariam, clinical support worker and refugee from Eritrea

Together With Refugees is urging the government to fundamentally rethink these proposals before they go through parliament for agreement in coming months. Instead we want a more effective, fair and humane approach to the UK’s refugee system, including with new safe routes, so that people don’t have to risk their life taking dangerous journeys.

Sabir Zazai, Together With Refugees spokesperson and CEO of coalition member Scottish Refugee Council, is a refugee himself, having sought safety in the UK in 1999 when he had to flee the conflict in Afghanistan.

“Abandoning people fleeing war and persecution, including women and children, is not who we are in the UK. These are mothers escaping war-torn Syria, women fleeing sexual violence in Congo or children escaping life-long conscription into the military in Eritrea. These are people in fear of their lives. These are people like me. These are also people like you, people who want to live in safety and dignity.”

Sabir Zazai, CEO Scottish Refugee Council

If like us you support a kinder, fairer and more effective approach to refugees please join us.