The UK government announced it was considering a new resettlement scheme for Afghan refugees. Discussing this, Dominic Raab told BBC Breakfast: “We are a big hearted-nation and we’ve always... been a country that has provided a safe haven to those fleeing persecution.”
In January 2021, Priti Patel’s home office had changed immigration rules to prevent people fleeing war or persecution from claiming asylum in the UK if they have passed through a “safe” third country, prompting accusations of a breach of international law. A few months earlier, Dominic Raab announced up to £4bn worth of cuts to international aid.
An alliance of more than 200 UK NGOs described the figures released in April 2021 as “a tragic blow for many of the world’s most marginalised people”.
Meanwhile, government projections for the financial year 2021-22 suggest that our total aid spending in Afghanistan stands at £93.8 million — a cut of around 44 per cent on 2020/21 levels of spending in the region.
The UK government has been criticised by international human rights organisations, such as the UN Refugee Agency and Amnesty International, for its “Nationality and Borders Bill” - announced in May 2021. This seeks to criminalise refugees who come to the UK either through “irregular routes” (such as channel crossings) or through “safe” countries (meaning that an asylum seeker from Afghanistan, who passed through France on the way, would no longer be legal). The UNHCR has said the bill would penalise “most refugees seeking asylum in the country”. It also appears to be in breach of international law.
Dominic Raab may have been telling the truth when he claimed that Britain is a “big-hearted nation.” But he was ignoring his own government’s record of aid cuts and hostility towards refugees. We sent this analysis to Dominic Raab’s office to give him an opportunity to respond, but received no acknowledgement or response.