At yesterday’s press conference Tim Montgomerie asked David Cameron for his reaction to the Centre for Social Justice’s report on asylum seekers. The Conservative leader promised to answer via a post on ConservativeHome. Here it is…
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to Tim’s question more fully. ConservativeHome is a great source of news and commentary for Conservatives and I welcome the robust debate it brings.
Let’s be clear straight away that there is a difference between economic migrants and asylum seekers. Too often politicians and journalists casually conflate these two very different things. Asylum seekers account for just 4% of our total immigration figures, and they are usually motivated by social issues rather than economic incentives.
The report identifies the key fact that the current system is failing everyone involved because of the delays in coming to a final decision. As things are, just 3% leave the country within three months of the determination of their case and 23% of those initial decisions end up getting reversed after lengthy appeals processes. Many end up working illegally to survive, and some are left in limbo for several years.
Our priority in Government would be to minimise these delays, to the advantage of both the taxpayer and the genuine refugee. If you can get the vast majority of cases decided in six months then the issue of being temporarily allowed to work or receive benefits becomes much less important.
I naturally want people to work and contribute to our society if they can, and I’m uncomfortable with the state completely disowning asylum seekers to the extent that in a developed country like ours 26,000 of them are reliant on Red Cross parcels. After all, these statistics represent real people who understandably want to live their lives in safety and comfort.
Like the CSJ I want both an efficient and humane asylum policy, and this report is a typically compassionate and innovative contribution to the debate. The Government’s approach is neither firm nor fair, and ineffective as a result.