Priti Patel's New Plan For Immigration will see asylum seekers in Yorkshire housed in 'reception centres' while they await a decision on refugee status

Asylum seekers will be housed in 'reception centres' rather than in the community while they wait to find out if their claim for refugee status has been successful under what Home Secretary Priti Patel describes as "the biggest overhaul of the UK's asylum system in decades".

Ms Patel's New Plan for Immigration, detailing how the Government intends to deal with people entering the UK "illegally", will mean people who enter the UK via another 'safe' country such as France will no longer have automatic access to the asylum system.

The Home Office described the current system for those seeking sanctuary as "collapsing under the pressures of what are in effect illegal routes to asylum, facilitated by criminals smuggling people into the UK and often resulting in the loss of life".

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People in Yorkshire and the Humber are more likely than not to support offering ...
Home Secretary Priti Patel pictured earlier this year. Pic by Press Association.

"Fairness" and a genuine need for refuge are at the heart of the proposals, the department said, as well as including measures to tackle people smugglers and "remove more easily from the UK those with no right to be there".

The Government promises to continue to welcome refugees and to help them build a life in the UK, with the Home Secretary having the ability to offer protection to vulnerable people in "immediate danger and at risk in their home country".

But the measures will also make it "much harder for people to be granted refugee status based on unsubstantiated claims" and include "rigorous age assessments" to stop adult migrants pretending to be children.

Rather than being housed in the community as they currently are, asylum seekers will live in reception centres "so they have simple, safe and secure accommodation to stay in while their claims are being processed".

In the last year there has been criticism of the hotels and military barracks asylum seekers have been housed in by the Home Office, with one condemned by inspectors over its fire safety and living conditions.

The balance in the new system will also shift to believing asylum seekers less, experts say, with rigorous age assessment processes carried out by a National Age Assessment Board to stop adult migrants pretending to be children.

In Yorkshire and the Humber, it is understood that many children were wrongly judged as adults in recent months and placed in large blocks of accommodation with actual adults.

Ms Patel said: "If people arrive illegally, they will no longer have the same entitlements as those who arrive legally, and it will be harder for them to stay.

"If, like over 60 per cent of illegal arrivals, they have travelled through a safe country like France to get here, they will not have immediate entry into the asylum system - which is what happens today.

"And we will stop the most unscrupulous abusing the system by posing as children, by introducing tougher, more accurate age assessments.

"Profiteering from illegal migration to Britain will no longer be worth the risk, with new maximum life sentences for people smugglers.

"I make no apology for these actions being firm, but as they will also save lives and target people smugglers, they are also undeniably fair."

Dave Brown, Head of Migration Yorkshire, which works with the region’s councils on migration issues, said: “This plan lays out profound changes to the UK immigration system and the Home Secretary sets the test of fairness for how this is to be judged.

“We know that Yorkshire is a region with a long and proud history of welcoming refugees in local communities and this will be looked at closely.

“The key questions here are likely to be about the balance of the proposals - to what extent should we restrict individual rights for those people who are not believed, and how much do we judge people on their method of travel compared to the persecution faced in their homeland.”

Last year about 8,500 people arrived in the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats and the majority claimed asylum, the Home Office said. Around 800 are estimated to have made the crossing so far this year.

The Home Office said: "For the first time, whether people enter the UK legally or illegally will have an impact on how their asylum claim progresses, and on their status in the UK if that claim is successful.

"We will make every effort to remove those who enter the UK illegally having travelled through a safe country in which they could and should have claimed asylum."

Access to benefits and family reunion rights could be limited while the appeals and judicial process will be reformed to "speed up" removals for those whose claims are refused.

Last week, polling revealed that people in Yorkshire are more than twice as likely to support offering sanctuary in the UK to those seeking refugee status than disagree with the idea, new polling has revealed.

A survey of 2,000 people in the region shows that residents are broadly supportive of giving refugees and asylum seekers opportunities for integration and inclusion.

The poll carried out by Migration Yorkshire suggests that city centres may be especially welcoming and that young people in particular are supportive of including those who have sought sanctuary in the UK after fleeing armed conflicts or persecution.

In December 2020, the latest period for which figures are available, 5,647 asylum seekers in Yorkshire and the Humber were getting so-called Section 95 support given to those whose claims have not yet been settled.

Of those, 1,079 were from Iraq, 670 from Iran, 394 from Albania, 357 from Pakistan and 249 from El Salvador. Nationwide, around half of all asylum seekers are granted refugee status.