In a landmark move aimed at curbing illegal people smuggling across the English Channel, the Bishop of Chelmsford, the Rt Rev Dr Guli Francis-Dehqani, has introduced a Private Members’ Bill in the House of Lords. The proposed legislation seeks to establish a legal pathway for asylum seekers, offering a beacon of hope to those fleeing conflict and persecution.
Under the Asylum Application (Entry to the United Kingdom) Bill, a pioneering humanitarian visa scheme would be set in motion, allowing for the safe and regulated entry of refugees into the UK. The scheme, which is poised to redefine the UK's approach to asylum seekers, would initially grant up to 10,000 asylum travel visas in its inaugural year, with subsequent annual limits determined by the Home Secretary.
Bishop Guli's proposal is a direct response to the perilous journeys faced by refugees, particularly from Afghanistan, Syria, Iran, Eritrea, and Sudan – nationalities most commonly braving the treacherous small boat crossings in search of safety. By offering a legitimate and secure route to the UK, the bill aims to dismantle the dangerous operations of people smugglers, who capitalise on the desperation of refugees.
Highlighting the urgency and humanitarian spirit of the bill, Bishop Guli stated: "I am pleased to bring forward this Private Members Bill on the introduction of a Humanitarian Visa Scheme, which will provide a much-needed opportunity to discuss safe routes into the UK for refugees fleeing conflict, persecution, and disasters. Such a scheme can help to undercut the business model of people smugglers encouraging refugees to take dangerous journeys across the Channel and the Mediterranean, by providing a safe, accessible, and controlled route.”
The proposed scheme not only facilitates safe entry but also promises an expedited process for asylum claims, marking a significant stride towards a more compassionate and efficient asylum system in the UK.
Following its initial presentation, the Bill underwent its first reading in the House of Lords on Wednesday, November 29. The date for the crucial Second Reading, where the details and implications of the bill will be further scrutinised and debated, is yet to be confirmed. As the UK grapples with the complex challenges of migration and asylum, Bishop Guli's Bill shines a light on the potential for humane and effective solutions.