An estimated 70,000-80,000 Jewish refugees were accepted into Britain before and during World War Two . At the time, the idea of turning our backs on those fleeing atrocities in continental Europe was reprehensible.
The Home Office began housing asylum seekers in disused army barracks around September last year and in that time their use has been a regular feature in the news. The Penally Camp in Tenby, West Wales, which was used for this purpose, was closed in March following an inspection that found it totally unsuitable and unsafe. Napier Barracks, an even larger site housing asylum seekers in Kent, remains open and is thought to house a population of around 250 individuals.
Last June, I asked whether we in Britain would be happy turning our back on unaccompanied child refugees. Eight months on and the government look to have concluded that they would be happy with exactly that. This comes following a response by the Immigration Minister Chris Philp to a question posed by Labour MP Alex Sobel in January.
With the first day of 2021 marking our exit from the European Union this was always going to be a year of significant change, and tightening immigration, one of the key promises of the Brexit campaign, was always going to be one of the first of these changes to occur. Unsurprisingly, the government moved to do just that in December when they introduced a change to the rules surrounding asylum cases.
To say that 2020 has been an unusual year is an understatement. The COVID-19 pandemic, and the package of government measures introduced in response, continue to dramatically impact our day-to-day lives. Even the most ordinary activities are subject to myriad restrictions and we find ourselves consciously weighing up the potential risks that even the simplest acts pose to others. In these respects, the pandemic has highlighted issues that form the crux of debates concerning human rights and civil liberties.
Imagine trying to live off £5.39 per day. It almost sounds like the basis of a TV show. Unfortunately, it is the reality that asylum seekers face in the UK. Not only this, asylum seekers in the UK currently have to have been waiting on a decision on their asylum application for an entire year before they can apply for the right to work, the right to work that is so fundamental to our everyday lives and allows us the freedom to support ourselves and our families.